Friday, September 8, 2006
“And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” (1Cor. 2:4)
In a day when free speech has claimed for itself the right of forced listening, we can hardly turn on the TV or radio without seeing or hearing about “demonstrations.” That is, men, women (and children) on streets somewhere, sitting, standing, or marching in order to call attention to some cause or injustice, real or merely perceived. In some cases, I may be sympathetic to their premise, though not their procedure. Strength of numbers is never a substitute for strength of argument, as far as I am concerned. Others may disagree, and, obviously, they have their right, as they have demonstrated. (Sorry!)
However, I would contend that demonstration, in the original sense of the word, is a fact of life, whether in a street or in a life. We are all demonstrating in one way or another. The Latin meaning of the word “demonstrate” is “to completely show.” It is giving visual meaning to audible claims, in the same way that the life of Joseph puts clothes on Romans 8:28. That precious promise in the New Testament is true and always applicable, but seeing it played out in the life of a young boy unjustly mistreated, but eventually raised to a throne, makes it—can I say, more believable?
Our witnessing for the Lord will be much more “believable” if our lives are not sending out contradictory signals. Under most circumstances, acknowledging that I am a child of God should be the natural conclusion of a life that has preceded that acknowledgement. I thought about this a few days ago when I found myself walking laps around a soccer field with a young woman who was telling she had never really had a good friend. Having become acquainted with her the previous semester, and knowing she had sought me out for companionship, it was easy to say to her, “I have known my best Friend since I was nine.” She was instantly intrigued and I was then able to share my Faith with her. She explained she had never been religious (her father was an atheist), and I remarked, “Neither have I. I’m not talking about a religion; I’m talking about a relationship.” None of this seemed odd to her, although I could tell it was new. When I found out she came from a very unaffectionate family, I told her, “Whenever you need a hug, just let me know.” She smiled and said, “O.K.” It is a good start, I think, to a truly meaningful witness. I pray so.
I study and read and try to prepare myself for arguments that I face in the classroom, but I am conscious that, like Paul, in the final analysis, it will not be my “enticing words,” that win the day, but the “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” in my everyday life. The message of the Cross and salvation in Christ needs to be “preached” to the world; but I have to earn the right to be heard, if I expect to be an effective witness. Like you, I am demonstrating—every day of my life. The question is: What are we demonstrating?
What you are, it speaks so loud,
That the world can’t hear what you say.
They’re looking at your walk,
Not listening to your talk;
They’re judging from your actions everyday.
Don’t believe you’ll deceive
By claiming what you’ve never known.
They’ll accept what they see and know you to be;
They’ll judge from your life alone.