16 But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.1 Timothy 1:16–17 (NRSV)
We normally think of Christian witness as something profoundly moving. Something that is accomplished that excites others to take up belief or continue in it. But in the passage above Paul says his witness is that Christ had patience with him. Utmost patience. It is the longsuffering of Christ that is lifted up as the witness that brings hope to others. Rather than doing away with Paul, who was persecuting Christians before his conversion, Jesus had patience…the utmost patience with Paul.
If you are reading this, most likely you are a person with faith in Christ. Let me ask a question for us to wrestle with this week. Does your witness of faith highlight the work of Christ or your works? There is a fine line…I know. Maybe to say it another way is, “Do people walk away from an interaction with you thinking about the Lord or about you?”
And while it may be natural to think witnessing is about the words that are said, I believe it may be about the lack of them. How well do we listen to others? Really listen. Not listening to respond but listening to hear their heart. Could the patience we show to others illuminate the patience Christ has for us as in the case of Paul? I am beginning to think so. The world has enough words (says the person writing a blog post!) but not enough willing hearers. I am growing more convinced by the day that listening may be the greatest evangelism tool we have in our society today. It’s counter-cultural. It gives space for Christ to work. Listening shows humility and true love for neighbors.