The other night I found myself watching “Finding Bigfoot” a show on Animal Planet, mainly because there are only so many times you can watch Sports Center in one day. Never the less, there I am watching these simian stalkers in their search for real evidence of this beast. I was pulled into the story with comments like
“Just so you know, one of my claims to fame in the Big Foot World is I was the one who discovered Big Foot’s two wood knocks, and figured out that if you make noise, they’ll respond. No other researchers knew that before because they never went in the field that often.” -Finding Big Foot
Seriously, can you find better T.V.?
These “researchers” were very serious about their sasquatch(sasquatches? sasquatchi?). They found witnesses who gave testimony to their own personal encounters. However, their encounters were of the “bump-in-the-night” variety. Ok, sure, they found a big foot print, but come on… I can make baby feet impressions with the side of my hand and a few forefinger pokes. None of these witnesses had much personal investment or real encounter. They were mostly retelling stories of something that almost happened to them. Without these researchers having a personal life-altering encounter, it is difficult to take them seriously.
I am reading Acts (from the Bible) this week. In the first chapter Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to give them his Spirit and they are going to be his witnesses to the world. A witness to what? As soon as I read this I thought if the disciples had tv and this program on big foot was out (of course they would watch it… it’s Bigfoot) would they have thought, “Great, Jesus disappears and now some camera crew is going to follow us around as we give witness to something nobody else can see”?
There are many people who actually view Christianity in this light and I believe one of the reasons for this is that many of us don’t know what it means to be a witness and are simply telling stories of something that is almost happening to us.
Most of the time when the word “witness” is used throughout scripture, it is used in reference to personal experience. We give witness to something that has happened to us or is happening to us. A witness on the stand is only credible if they were there. Jesus is telling the disciples to be his witness. Jesus is telling the disciples to be, by the power of the Holy Spirit, his active and experiential work and presence in the world. They are to give witness to their personal experience of Christ in their life. In short, they are called to live Christ. This is the point of the church. Luke Timothy Johnson writes in his book “Creed” that “the church is, in a real sense, the continuation of the incarnation, the embodied presence of the resurrected Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (doubleday 2003 pg 256)
In order for the Christian to be an effective witness we must begin by being witnesses to what God is doing in us. The question then becomes, “am I willing to open my life to God?” The rest of the book of Acts is about how ordinary men and women become extraordinary witnesses of Christ. They did not tell about things they “kind of” saw. The gave witness to what God was doing in them. Our call as Christians is not to point to some weird moralism told in folklore and mountain myth, but to actually be the proof of witness to the greatness of God, to be the walking miracle, to be the transformed life. What kind of witness are you giving? Does it point to something that is almost happening to you, or have you surrendered to God in such a way that your life is transforming and a living witness?