Your Christian Witness
Does your Christian witness really matter? You might think that the answer is an obvious “Of course, it does!” Sadly enough, the answer may be very clouded, even in our own minds. This page is written in response to a disturbing trend that is not new at all, but ancient.
I’ve noticed some pitfalls from studying the Bible, observing history and the lives of others who are contemporary. Not wanting to be victim to the same, I can at least be aware of these pitfalls that could hinder my Christian witness. Perhaps what I explore here may benefit you as a Christian artist.
First, let's differentiate between what I consider your Christian witness, from what is your Christian testimony. Your Christian testimony is the deliberate expression of your transformation, as a new creation in Christ. It is can be expressed in words, art, music…
But your Christian witness, is the unseen, yet equally powerful, part of your role as a believer. It is what is read between the lines, absorbed during the musical rests, or the quiet passages of muted color on a canvas. It is your reflection of Jesus in the other arenas of your life. Both are potent in their impact. Without one, the other would be meaningless. Yet both your witness and your testimony must be consistent to truly be effective. Ah! But who evaluates that?
A post from a popular atheist blog, dealt with the "confession" of an atheist. He once wrote successful “Christian music” for some of the biggest names in the industry and won Dove and Grammy awards. The son of a Christian pastor, he composed music since he was a child, won acclaim over the years and now has a large following.
“Finally, while in Nashville, I allowed myself to embrace my inner atheist (privately), all the while writing and recording Christian music,” he wrote. His primary concern with this "embrace" was the following. “I’m trapped: If I “come out” as an atheist, I’ll lose fans in droves. But by not doing so, I’m condemning myself to the torture of fans who assume I’m still a Christian.“
The "torture" that he describes are his Christian fans, who write “We thank the Lord for your ministry!” and similar expressions of gratitude.
His greatest concern is most telling. How was he to maintain his fan base, his financial status that their favor sustains, without being subject to the "torture" of their praise? He talks about tiring of his double life.
What is most concerning are those who commented on the post stating that his views would have no bearing on their enjoyment of his music.
Does Christian music, written by a professing atheist not disturb you, if the music is well conceived and masterfully executed? How do you feel about Christian art, created by an artist given to drunken brawls?
Does the character of the person have no bearing on the talent on display? Or is there something at work here that extracts a phenomenally high price.
Some (not all) famous work, was created by artists whose lives would make most of us wince in shame. Does that surprise you? Caravaggio who created powerful Biblical illustrations that the world lauded, was known for a sordid lifestyle. Most of what we know of his personal life was retrieved from court documents, rather like picking through garbage hoping to find something of worth. In his brief life, he murdered a man, was known for brawling, even with his patrons, and was constantly fleeing justice. Yet he revolutionized painting with his chiaroscuro style.
The world was moved by the talent of Caravaggio, but he was a sorry Christian witness. So what makes a successful Christian witness? Most of us, who came to the faith because of the integrity of an effective Christian witness, do not need to have the obvious pointed out to us. Those who led us to Christ were irresistible in their personality and character.
True, they were flawed human beings, but they exuded enough of Jesus to make us yearn for what was apparently missing in our lives. In the unspoken aspects of their lives they possessed an authentic integrity that was like a magnet snapping us to attention and drawing us closer. If you have never yet encountered such a Christian witness, it would probably not surprise me, since they seem to be getting increasingly difficult to find.
The Christian witness that wields the most power, is one who lives by the Living Word. They are those who demonstrate that the words in the Book are infinitely precious, by living them out.
Jesus describes this best in Mt 13:46 about the man “ who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”
Here was someone who, when he discovered the greatest treasure ever known to man, expressed his heartfelt response by his actions. He demonstrated that all that he owned thus far, paled in comparison to this pearl of great price. What better witness to anyone observing his actions, of the priceless worth of his treasure!
Our Christian witness is therefore inseparable from that which we proclaim. We are ineffective, despite who lauds our creativity, if we do not dwell in Jesus, the Vine , and submit ourselves to the husbandman. We cannot separate ourselves, skin from seed, or stem from flesh. We are an organic whole in a constant state of being and growing.
While others may admire our color, perhaps represented by our fame and influence, or size (our financial successes?), there is only one opinion that counts.
The opinion of the harvester of the fruit is paramount. He looks for what cannot be seen by outward appearances. Unimpressed by merely its physical presence, He will evaluate it. Jesus has a lot to say about bearing fruit in the Bible, using that as an analogy for effectiveness in his kingdom. Make no mistake; He is a fastidious husbandman of his vineyard.
So beware of allowing fame or acclaim of your artwork, or those of your contemporaries, to detract you from the fact that the authenticity of your Christian witness will be evaluated by His standards, not those of the world.
Perhaps, art has yet to be created by those who are authentic Christian witnesses in these challenging times.