"And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning" (John 15:27)
The lesson of this week focuses on the “need to stay involved in witnessing and evangelism ministries . . . as long as we have breath” (Section for Saturday 23 June).
I confess that I have reservations about two concepts that appear in the Quarterly, i.e. "necessity" and "duty." The first of these concepts is stated in the passage just quoted. The second is published in the same section: “As long as we have breath we should, in one capacity or another, continue to minister” (emphasis added).
Why the emphasis on the "need" to stay involved in witnessing? In my view, here is involved the assumption that witnesses are not aware that witnessing is a perpetual way of life. If this were the situation of the witnesses, what could that mean?
And why does the author stress that we “should” continue to witness?
To answer these two questions, I think we need, first, to review the meaning of "witnessing" in the context of the commission given by the Master to his disciples the last time He was with them. I understand that the words of Jesus spoken to the disciples in the privacy of the Last Supper, the night before his crucifixion, are of paramount importance, due to time and circumstance in which they were spoken. In the words of Jesus Christ, "the Comforter, whom I will send to you from the Father —the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father— he will testify about me" (John 15:26).
First, it is remarkable that the testimony of the Spirit is a testimony about Jesus Christ. It is not a testimony about something, but about Somebody. The same is true of the words that immediately continue: "And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning" (John 15:27).
The testimony of the disciples of Jesus, from that time until today, is a testimony about Jesus. To testify about him, we must know him, having "been with him." I wonder if those who have been with Jesus, benefiting from the Peace that he gives, consider that bearing witness about Him is an obligation, a duty. The answer I find, and that I offer to readers, is that it is not a duty, it is not a moral obligation, it is not something you can do or not do. To witness about Jesus is the spontaneous and inevitable consequence, a result of knowing him and being with him. Witnessing is a consequence, not a necessity.
And how can we witness about Jesus? This also was told by the Master the eve of his crucifixion: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35). The meaning of the Christian life is to be witnesses of Jesus, testifying that we are disciples of Jesus. And all the speeches and the techniques of evangelism are not useful if they are not accompanied by a life in keeping with the speeches; if not accompanied by attitudes and acts of love.
Those who have been with Jesus have received the charism of love, which can not be concealed. I repeat: it is natural to be witnesses of that love as long as we have breath, unless we stop "remaining" in Jesus. To reflect the love of Jesus in the world is not tiring, no more than breathing! When people get older and their health fails, the love of Jesus that is in them is not extinguished.
Unless testifying about Jesus and His love is not what the Master says in John 13-17, unless Jesus and the author of the lesson are talking about different things, or that I do not understand what they say, to bear witness about Jesus and proclaim the good news (evangelize) is as natural and as belonging to the essence of being a disciple, that a Christian does not consider it a duty, or need to be reminded that it is necessary .
The Sun does not heat or lights because it is its "duty", nor because it has been convinced that it is "necessary" to do so. The Sun shines and heats because it is the Sun.
What is needed, then, is to see if we are disciples of Jesus, if we were with him, and if we abide in him. For me, what is needed is to recognize if I want to open the door, recognize if I have hunger and thirst for justice. Recognize that it is I who need God and not think that He is depending on me, because although it is true that we are his instruments, we are the ones who need him. I am the one who needs God, and from this humble acknowledgment, every day I meet him. This is my need, and the consequence is to witness about the daily miracle of seeing a heart of stone becoming one of flesh.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4576