Sunday, December 12, 2010

What is a "Testimony"?

Ever since I started hanging out with Christians I have heard this term - "testimony". No one else really uses that word...the closest we come to it is the word "testify", which means to speak as a witness in court. Now, nobody I know (except lawyers) associates court with a place you would want to be, much less something you want to practice up for, just in case you get the honors. No, being in court usually means you are in trouble. So who wants think about being ready to "testify"?

But as I listened to how Christians used this word "testimony", I got the impression that it wasn't really something you are a witness to, but it's really used to refer to your reputation, i.e. "you might hurt your testimony", or "that's not a very good testimony to engage in that".  Then it occurred to me one day as I was reading what others thought of Jesus, based on the fact that He drank wine, liked to eat, hung out with prostitutes and sinners...and discovered that He didn't have a very good "testimony"!!! (if that's what it is!)

Well, last night at our house church meeting we were all looking at Luke 8 where it tells about the guy in the tombs that was demon possessed. My friend Bruce didn't say much until the end when he pointed out something that really hit me: After Jesus freed this guy from all his bondage, and he ended up with his clothes on again and with a "sound minded", it was then that Jesus told him to go back to his people and (King James Bible) "Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee." (Luke 8:39) What got me was that it didn't say to just tell them about it, but "shew" them. When we dug a little deeper we found that the word there is diegeomai, which literally means (in our modern terms) to "walk them through it"! He wanted the guy to give them a full, demonstrated, account of what happened, not just lay theology on them.

I thought to myself how hard this would be for us today - Like a guy is in a mental institution, heavily sedated and kept in a padded cell. One day he is totally back to normal...and gets to go back home. quiet, discrete reintegration for him, No! He has to tell everybody how he was banging himself against walls and strapped into a gurney half the time, and how this guy came and sent a bunch of spirits out of him and into a herd of pigs...well, you get the picture. Any hope of a nice quite social life is down the tubes for him!!

So what really is a "testimony"? I have to take it from this account that if nothing else, it is this: Our own personal story of how at my lowest point in life, Jesus' reckless love and grace appeared to me and proved itself in a way that removed every last hint of shame from my life, and settled once and for all the question: Am I worth it? 

That kind of "testimony" is never boring to anyone, and always carries some of the power of that moment to others. I takes a lot of guts to share something like that. I have been challenged big time!

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