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Let’s not be surprised. The world is a dark place, and attacks on Christianity by our culture are in abundant supply. A quick scroll through your social media feed or a fifteen-minute segment of the evening news will prove that. While some might say, “It’s worse than ever!” we must admit that somewhere in the world it’s always been like this. Jesus put it this way when preparing His own disciples for His departure: “In this world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33).
As Christians, it’s more than likely that our faith in Christ will bring us attacks, slander, workplace discrimination, and the loss of friends and opportunities. In the midst of such treatment, there is a temptation to fight fire with fire. But what if we saw times like these as a great opportunity to be a witness? What if our most powerful witness was found in using weapons of warfare that look nothing like the culture’s? As Christians, we are the light of the world. We are a city on a hill (Matt. 5:14). But how can light be light when it looks like the darkness?
The Apostle Paul was no stranger to trouble and dealing with difficult people, yet he continued to encourage the church to preserve its witness in the midst of a wicked culture. “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:5–7). These words were penned by the same Paul who was slandered by false teachers and had his integrity questioned in Corinth (2 Cor. 10–11). Yet, Paul continued to make every effort to guard his witness by proclaiming the truth and walking with integrity. His heart was wide open to the church (6:11), he exemplified his own words to “owe no one anything” but to love others (Rom. 13:8), and he poured his life out as a drink offering (2 Tim. 4:6). He was a wonderful example of truth and integrity.
The enemy’s strategy has not changed. Darkness will stop at nothing in tempting you to behave like the world in times like these. Why? Because doing so will undermine your witness and derail your effectiveness as an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20–21). So, what must we do? We take up the shield of faith and deflect Satan’s fiery darts the same way Paul did and the same way Christians have done for millennia. Let me give you two questions that can act as filters through which every word and deed must pass for a believer.
1. Do My Words and Deeds Reflect the Character of God? Your witness for God must reflect the character of God. In other words, we maintain our witness when we make decisions and speak in ways that emulate the character of God. This could be applied to online interactions, workplace conversations, business dealings, or even the way we handle rush-hour traffic. We must refuse to compromise our integrity in an effort to reflect the character of God. We stand unwavering in truth yet refusing to behave like those who do not know the truth. We do not lie or deceive; we do not revile our revilers, threaten back, or seek vengeance when wronged; rather, we reflect the character of God in Christ as He “continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). How can we maintain our witness in today’s culture? By reflecting the character of Him to whom we bear witness.
2. Am I Relying on the Authority of Scripture or My Feelings and Opinions? If you follow your feelings and opinions, you will compromise truth and integrity—and ultimately, your witness. The conversation of culture is littered with the phrases “Well, I feel like . . .” and “I just think . . . ” and even, “The God I believe in would never . . .” The culture majors on feelings, opinions, distortion of truth, and caricatures of God. The believer majors on truth and integrity that is founded on the authority of Scripture. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, even He relied on the Word of God, quoting the Old Testament Scriptures (Matt. 4:1–11). As witnesses who represent the King, we have nothing powerful to say except when wielding the power of His Word. We must not seek to win the world with worldly behaviors. Our opinions and emotions can be momentarily persuasive, but when we rely on God’s Word, the effects can last into eternity. What if we were quicker to point to God’s truth when interacting with others? How would reliance on His Word change the way we speak, text, work, refute, and love? We must ask ourselves, “Is what I am saying or doing right now founded on Scripture, backed by Scripture, and bringing glory to Christ?” Trust faith over feelings. Look to God’s Word.
When we hear terms such as bold and courageous, we rightly think of the great Reformers such as Martin Luther and John Knox. Perhaps we think of modern-day preachers standing against the cultural assault on Christianity and engaging in ideological warfare—which could certainly be considered spiritual warfare (2 Cor. 10:5). But how easily we can overlook our own ability to bring the Word of God to bear in our daily interactions. What if we thought more deeply about our beliefs, responsibilities, and everyday choices as we dwell together before a watching world? We are resident foreigners with an eternal citizenship in heaven (1 Peter 2:11). Remembering this divine reality changes the way we interact on earth. Imagine how mighty a witness we would be as countless thousands of Christians deploy into the culture every single day with one visual in mind: We are a city on a hill.