But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (NIV)
Christian witnessing has tended to get a bad name. Some of us shudder at our clumsy attempts to ‘win people for Christ’. Such attempts could degenerate into arguments, could convey a sense of moral superiority. And our hearts were not in it at times. We might have been motivated by peer-group pressure, by fear, by our own insecurities.
The one overarching requirement in witness is love. And that can be missing if we lack a sense of just how much we are loved. If we don’t grasp the love of God for us our verbal witness may become browbeating, driven by anxiety and the need to have others agree with us or become scalps on our belt.
The good news of Jesus can become bad news if our hearts are not right. We can know all the facts, mastered all the techniques, but without some deep and genuine love for those to whom we speak our witness is false.
The Catholic writer Henri Nouwen once said that if we want to be witnesses for Jesus we need to be more like Jesus. Our prayer must be that we not only know the facts but that we share them as those alive with the love of God.