By: Dom Ruso, Lead Pastor at the180
God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. (Acts 2:32)
"I was there": three words that make a distant memory come alive. Three words that anchor us in the truth of what actually happened.
Very few know this, but Christianity is held together by the testimony of a group of people who said “We were there,” when Jesus died and were still there when he came back to life.
These earliest followers of Jesus were witnesses to something no one was ready for. Their special role eventually earned them the name “apostles.” In other words, those who had seen the resurrected Jesus and were specifically called to his purposes quickly gained a special status. That status of leadership also came with an incredible expense: most would be killed for their beliefs.
Oftentimes I wonder what it would have been like to be one of those first witnesses without the noise of today's marketing.
In a world without social media, witnesses were only taken seriously if they embodied a new way of life that aligned with their claims. We know that some of the new practices that were associated with the witnesses of Jesus' life, death and resurrection were:
i. The commitment to love and forgive ones enemies (Matthew 5:44).
ii. The giving of money to help those in need, and a sacrificial way of life (Acts 2:45).
iii. The commitment to live a different kind of life that blessed others (1 Peter 2:12).
How different for us today.
In a world of flash and self-promotion it is so easy to minimize the power of being a witness. While we can never claim to be “original” witnesses, like the apostles were, we can ask ourselves this simple question:
If I believe that Jesus was raised from the grave, does my life reflect this truth?
Most people confuse “image management” with a new way of life. It is easy to think that posting a quote about new life and seeing people "like" it might lead to making a difference. We've all been there. We fall for the subtle lie that creating an appearance of something that isn't there will make us feel better - though we know it doesn't. There is something hardwired in our humanity to quickly recognize and feel what fake is.
In an age of marketing our image, many have also found ways to sell religious experiences devoid of a new life or hope. Countless people engage in diverse religious practices without exploring what it means to live a surrendered life. When this happens, we substitute witnessing to something greater than ourselves for a selfish attempt to serve ourselves. It's easy to do so in a marketing world because we forget the simple truth stated so cleverly by Seth Godin - "Social media wasn't invented to make you better, it was invented to make the companies money."
One of the most powerful ways to return to the importance of being witnesses is to let someone be a witness to how you live. What might it look like to mentor someone and invite a friend to speak into your life? Who are you journeying with? Who provides wisdom and honesty in your life? Who helps you grow past the superficial world of social media posts?
A key influential leader in the Bible once said, " Follow me as I follow Jesus." (Yep, this is probably where Twitter got the idea of "following"!) Imagine the kind of strength it took to say, "Hey, come be witness to how I live and see how the decisions I make actually align with a desire to follow Jesus."
While we can't claim to ever be the original apostolic witnesses, we can embody a way of life today that invites people to discover God's love in new ways. You and I won't ever be able to say "We were there," but we can live in such a way that people might say, "I believe Jesus was really there because of the way you follow him."