SMYTH: Witness as Word - Putting into words our faith in Jesus Christ
November 13, 2018
In today’s climate, it can be hard to share our faith when there are many misunderstandings of who Christ is and what His Church teaches.
At times, the thought of having a conversation about truths we hold as Christians with those who might be opposed to them can seem terrifying.
Nevertheless, Scripture tells us that we should “give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15). We are called to witness to Christ with our words. The Gospel of John refers to Jesus as “the Word.”
To be a successful witness, we first need to know the Word, be in relationship with Him, and then recognize the power of our own words as we witness with them.
Who is the Word?
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
John the Evangelist refers to Jesus as the Logos which means “word.” We often refer to Jesus as the Word, without considering the significance of that title. John writes “all things were made through Him” (John 1:3).
Jesus is the eternal Word of God through whom everything was created. It is this second person of the Trinity, the Word of God, to whom we give witness.
The Power of Words
Therefore, it is essential to understand the power of words when giving witness to Christ. God created through His eternal Word.
All of us are a result of that action. Bearing the image of God who spoke creation into being, our words carry a similar power. Our words have the power to impart encouragement, kindness, life and love.
However, they can also be a tool of destruction, wounds, lies and death. This is why Scripture reminds us to take care when using our words (James 3:10) and to only use words that serve to build up (Ephesians 4:29).
When we witness, we employ words that impart life to others by pointing them to Christ. Aquinas said words are signs that point to realities. God communicates Himself to us through Jesus the Word and through the words of Scripture.
Likewise, we use our own words to communicate our relationship with God to others. As God imparts life through His Word, we are also called to give witness through the power of the Word.
Being in the Word
We must first be in relationship with the Word to give witness to Him. Jesus told us that He will give us the words to speak when we need them (cf. Luke 12:12).
More important than looking to Jesus for words, is to look to Jesus to be transformed by Him. Paul tells us in Christ we are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), and that we are called to be renewed by the transformation of our minds (Romans 12:2).
Before we can share our own witness with words, we need to share it by our lives. The more time we spend in prayer with Scripture and frequenting the Sacraments, the more we will be transformed by Christ, and our very living will be a witness.
When others can see Christ in our actions, our love, our joy, our hope, then they will be willing to listen to our words.
Witness with our Words
When the time comes that we have the opportunity to give witness to Christ, we must choose our words carefully.
The key is not necessarily knowing lots of technical theological language, or having all the words of Scripture memorized. We need to be able to put into words why we have faith in Christ Jesus.
Too often, people feel ill equipped to give witness to Christ because they feel that they struggle to explain the Church’s particular teachings, or they aren’t well versed in apologetics. In most situations, the question that the world wants answered first is the reason for our belief.
We need to be able to put words to what Jesus has done in our lives and how it has changed us. When we can tell others the experience of knowing Christ, they will be more interested in hearing why we hold onto the rest of our beliefs. Our words can help others come to know Jesus as we do, and like Jesus, our words can impart life into others.
A word of encouragement, kindness and love can put hope into another’s heart and plant the seeds of faith. Beginning with our relationship with Jesus the Word, our words can bear witness to the Gospel in the world today.
Bryan Smyth is the coordinator of High School Youth Ministry at Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church.