’M A CREATURE OF HABIT. MOST EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING I’M OUT the door before 5:30 for my six-mile run. On my way home, about a mile from my house, I greet Don, who stands waiting for the 6:15 Ride On bus to the Glenmont Metro Station.
We exchange greetings—as much as is possible in the five seconds or so it takes me to go puffing and wheezing past him. I know he works downtown for the General Accounting Office, and he knows (at least I’ve told him) that I work at the Adventist headquarters at the intersection of Randolph Road and Old Columbia Pike. That’s about the extent of our relationship.
Early last winter I noticed emergency vehicles, lights flashing, parked in front of his house when I ran past about half-past 5:00. I didn’t stop, but on my way home I spotted him waiting for the 6:15, so I stopped and asked, “What’s the deal with those emergency vehicles?”
He told me that his son is diabetic, and had had “an episode.” We talked for just a moment, then he shook my hand and said, “Hey, thanks for asking.”
On Wednesday afternoons I take my old guitar to the Bethesda Health and Rehabilitation Center and spend about 30 minutes singing and playing some of those good old standards with the patients there: “Amazing Grace,” “Has Anybody Seen My Gal?” “There’s a Land That Is Fairer Than Day,” “Button Up Your Overcoat,” etc.
One day late last year Claire, one of the activities directors, met me in the hall and threw her arms around my shoulders. “Uh, hi, Claire,” I stammered as she released her grip.
“My husband died last month,” she announced, “a massive stroke; he was only 53.”
I don’t know why she shared that information with me; maybe she was telling everybody. But in those few moments when I asked how she was doing and assured her that I’d be praying for her, I felt a sense of profound gratitude that God could use me to comfort a friend in need; a friend I see only once a week, and then for only a few minutes.
Could it be that sometimes we have such a rigid view of “witnessing” that we miss out on opportunities to reflect Christ’s character to the people we meet routinely, week after week, month after month, year after year? Could it be that we see ourselves as successful at witnessing only if someone is baptized? Or could it be that merely modeling Christ’s love and concern to those around us is part of our commission to take this gospel to the entire world?
For Adventists many of our ideas about witnessing are bound up in the notion of the communication of information. But at its heart the gospel is about how a relationship with Jesus changes lives.
Several months ago I was approached by three young women who asked if I would study the Bible with them. Two of them are Adventists, one isn’t. The two Adventists said they wanted to study the Bible so they could be ready to meet Jesus when He returns. We tossed around some ideas. I remember Revelation being mentioned as a possible topic; then I suggested Romans.
For several weeks—every Wednesday evening—we went through the book of Romans, reviewing the great themes of that book: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38, 39).
In February, at the end of one of those studies, Lisa, not an Adventist, said, “So, Steve, I think I want to be baptized.”
Stephen Chavez is managing editor of the Adventist Review.