BY ROBERTO PEREYRA
t least three basic reasons exist for witnessing. It is necessary to witness because (1) the world is dying under the rule of sin, (2) it is a privilege to cooperate with Christ in His mission to save a dying world, and (3) it fosters our spiritual growth in Christ.
1. A Dying World
When we look at the world in which we live, what do we see? We see increasing rates of violence, insecurity, addictions, dishonesty, and corruption; we see families falling apart, lack of respect toward authorities, individualism, sexual licentiousness, and ecological destruction. All these things tell us of a society that suffers under the rule of evil and sin.
Our society is characterized by murders, drug abuse, divorce, child abuse and violence, kidnapping, teenage pregnancies, a materialistic approach to life, and selfish nationalism. Moral corruption and an increasing amount of international terrorism are highly distressing.
The crisis of society (which permeates every aspect of its economical, political, and ideological life) produces insecurity, anxiety, and fear. In times when businesses have crumbled and economies threaten to go into recession, the fear of a worldwide collapse is already lurking in the shadows. Obviously, the ongoing crisis of a worldwide economy that threatens economical disintegration erodes trust, credibility, hope, and peace. Generally speaking, however, our society ignores the fact that it is under the rule of evil. It does not acknowledge that sin is an inner force, an inherent condition, a degrading power that affects personality, family, and society.
The apostle Paul personifies sin while describing its power when he says that "sin entered the world" (Rom. 5:12), producing from that moment on all kinds of covetous desires (Rom. 7:8), exerting control (Rom. 6:14; 7:14-23), ruling over humans (Rom. 5:21; 6:12), deceiving and producing death (Rom. 7:11, 13, 24; 6:23), and separating us from God (Rom. 3:23). Consequently, our world is "a scene of misery that we dare not allow even our thoughts to dwell upon. Did we realize it as it is, the burden would be too terrible."1
God had warned Adam that when sin entered the world, death would be the result of disobedience (Gen. 2:17). Thus death, initially an intruder, became a natural part of life. And ever since, we have been involved in a conflict--a conflict between the ethics of life and the ethics of death.
All humans descend to the grave, and in that sense everyone shares in the results of Adam's transgression. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, not only did they lose their right to the tree of life, but because of sin their nature was weakened and depraved, making it impossible for humans to resist by themselves the power of sin in their lives. Because of their transgression sin was introduced as an infectious power in the human race. That infection has continued since then, degrading and deeply affecting human society, which withers under its domain. Indeed, the wages of sin is degradation, disintegration, death. However, the gift of God "is eternal life in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 6:23).
Had it not been for the plan of redemption devised by God in Christ, the result of Adam's sin would have been eternal death. "So long as sin exists, suffering and death are inevitable. It is only because the Redeemer has borne the curse of sin in our behalf that man can hope to escape, in his own person, its dire results."2 The wonder of God's love!
Thus, the central act in the history of this degraded and suffering world, sentenced to death and perishing under the rule of sin, is the advent and incarnation of the Son of God, who died for the human race (2 Cor. 5:14, 15; Heb. 2:9; 1 John 2:2). Of course, it is true that "our world is a vast lazar house," but "in order to destroy sin and its results He gave His best Beloved, and He has put it in our power, through cooperation with Him, to bring this scene of misery to an end."3
2. Cooperating with Christ in Mission
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matt. 24:14). Yes, the world is perishing under the rule of evil and sin. Within this philosophical and biblical framework, however, our Lord and Savior has given us the same instructions He gave His disciples: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:18, 19). The message of hope and the invitation to discipleship given to those who perish under the rule of sin are clear:
This is our message, our privilege, and our responsibility: to cooperate with Christ and end this scene of misery! Yet there is something more sublime in the walk and experience of the Christian disciple: spiritual growth in Christ.
3. Fostering Spiritual Growth
As mentioned before, God has called us to serve a world under the power of darkness. Our challenge consists in making it Christian through the testimony of the truth that unites us. In order to achieve it, "to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good" (1 Cor. 12:7), and God expects us to develop these manifestations in cooperation with Christ to end the drama of a perishing world.
1. The author gives three reasons for witnessing. Which one motivates you most, and why?
2. Are there times when it might be best to witness through our words, and other times primarily through our actions? If so, give examples.
3. The author states that we have the challenge of making our world Christian "through the testimony of the truth that unites us." How do you react to that? Where do you see yourself in the process?
God grants us talents for the good of the church. We grow spiritually as we put them into service for others. "Spiritual growth depends upon giving to others the light that God has given to you. . . . In place of growing anxious with the thought that you are not growing in grace, just do every duty that presents itself, carry the burden of souls on your heart, and by every conceivable means seek to save the lost. Be kind, be courteous, be pitiful; speak in humility of the blessed hope; talk of the love of Jesus; tell of His goodness, His mercy, and His righteousness."4
The Bible tells us that each Christian is a priest who serves God and His people (1 Peter 2:5). Everyone is a minister, a servant. Pastors serve God in the way God enables them to serve. Singers serve God in the way God enables them to serve. Teachers serve God likewise. The point is that everyone gives according to the capacity given by God, and by doing so, everyone grows up "into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body . . . grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work" (Eph. 4:15, 16).
"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others. . . . If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. if anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 4:10, 11).
God has placed us in this perishing world to witness for Him. Therefore, witness among your family, your friends, and in the specific spot you find yourself. Tell others by your life that you are a Christian. Speak of the Bible. Tell others how and why you have received Christ as your personal Savior and Lord. Our perishing world requires this task. It is a privilege to cooperate with Christ in His mission to save the world. Witnessing in unity fosters our spiritual growth in Christ.
Therefore, let us go and witness because the world is dying--it is our duty; let us cooperate with Christ in saving a perishing world--that is our privilege; and let us grow spiritually in Christ--that is our challenge!
Roberto Pereyra is a theology professor and the vice president for academic affairs of the Bolivia Adventist University in Cochabamba, Bolivia.