By: Gunther Fiek
Posted by: Bob Chatelle
“You must be ‘saved’ to be able to share your testimony.” For a number of reasons, I was troubled by the statement made by a Kairos member as he addressed the community. Last month’s theme for our Kairos meetings was One’s Testimony. That is, to be able to share with others what God has done in one’s life. But what bothered me about those words was that, first of all, it involved injecting into the discussions one’s doctrine – opening a Pandora’s box, since some Christians approach salvation differently. It also alienates some men who may relate to God in different ways hence finding different pathways.
I’m all about unity – specially, Christian unity. But I also respect how other individuals worship, relate to or approach God — if they do at all. It gets under my skin when individuals feel that their way is the only way and everyone else is wrong. It strikes an even bigger nerve when these individuals want to attack or ‘correct’ another ones beliefs with baseless arguments or discussions. And they seem to suddenly forget the very thing they stand on – the Bible – when it says to not judge.
Over the course of the years of my incarceration, and even before it, I have encountered men and women of other faiths who have shown a sincere devotion to whatever their belief may be. Anyone may have ways to present that belief, such as in the form of a testimony or other ways. Nonetheless, whether one uses words or actions to show where they stand as a religious person, I strongly feel that it should be represented, first, by the way one carries him or herself and what one does as a result of their belief — there is no stronger testimony than that.
A few months ago, during our last Kairos Walk, some participants (candidates to become Kairos members) approached me during one of the breaks and asked me what did I get them involved in. When I inquired to their question, they said that the three outside volunteers seated at their table apparently had disagreements on some issues they had been discussing. And at times it apparently got somewhat ‘passionate.’ (The outside volunteers act as facilitators during the Walk, which lasts three and a half days and, upon completion, participants become life long members of Kairos). It saddened me that this men had experienced and witnessed a divisiveness between three Christian men during a time where what brings them together us men of faith should be a testimony of who we are not only as a community but as believers in Christ.
Kairos is a community of Christian believers where we should come together as one regardless of church affiliation. Psalm 133:1 says, “How good it is, how pleasant, where the people dwell as one!” If Christians are to fulfill what this scripture is telling us, then our focus should be to see pass any differences that we may have and focus in developing and strengthening a relationship with God. For us to do that we must know God. To know God, to get to God, it is our Christian belief that one has to go through Jesus Christ. In Christ’s own words, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but through me.” This is what makes us Christians, this is the common core of our belief, and what should bring us together as one. In St. John 17, Jesus wants all of us to be one just as Him and the Father are one so that the world may believe who He is. It is when we fail to see pass any differences, as those volunteers did, and who belong to three different Christian churches (denominations), that we send a wrong message to the world.
Now, if we are to go through Christ to get to God, then we must know, accept and commit our lives to Christ. It is then, when we convert, that our lives changes. Some Christian denominations call this conversion as having been ‘saved’ or ‘redeemed.’ There is no question or doubt that all who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life (St. John 3:16). However, we need to be mindful and respectful in that different Christian denominations approach this salvation differently.
Since Kairos is an ecumenical setting, that is, for all Christians, we have a medley of men who have been brought up and belong to different denominations. Although a large number are members of one of the many mainstream Protestant churches, one will find that other Protestant churches may also have different views when it comes to interpreting salvation. That same sentiment is found in other Christian churches such us Eastern, Greek or other Orthodox churches, or the Catholic Church. For the most part, Protestant churches see salvation as a one time commitment. On the other hand, for the Orthodox churches and the Catholic Church, as a consequence of that commitment, it is a continuous process – a life journey if you will – with directions and instructions to follow, and where one can loose that salvation if done otherwise. Needless to say, the commonality that we have, regardless of one’s approach or views on salvation, is that it started at one point in our lives. And how we live our lives should reflect the change person that we are … or ought to be.
In the 10th chapter of the Book of Acts, we are told when St. Peter was pondering on a vision he had and that then the Spirit came to him and spoke to him. Based on this revelation, Peter went and visited Cornelius, a centurion and an upright God-fearing man, who was directed by a holy angel to summon Peter. As Peter entered Caesarea, Cornelius received him by paying homage. Peter also realized that many people were gathered. He then addressed the crowd and reminded them that even though it is unlawful for a Jew to be with the Gentiles, he is there because “God has called him to call no person unclean or profane” (10:28). Peter then proceeded to ask why he was summoned. After Cornelius explains the apparition that he experienced while praying, Peter says, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” In a similar way, us too should show no partiality because what we share, and what we testify to, can change someone’s life. We are called not to alienate no one, since, by doing so, we ignore the very message given to us to love others as He has loved us (St. John 15:12).
That commitment also asks us to be obedient. It is because of the love that we have for Christ that we show obedience. That is true conversion — and a true conversion lasts forever. There’s no greater example of true conversion, than the story of St. Paul. As Saul, Paul was trying to destroy the church (Acts 8:3). Then in Chapter 9 of Acts, Paul is converted and subsequently baptized. I encourage anyone to read about Paul’s life and what he did as a changed man beginning with the Book of Acts. He not only became a great missionary, but he exemplified true conversion. He wrote a third of the new testament. He told us how we should live in the Spirit, and spoke of the fruits of the Spirit. Paul also acknowledged that he had weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:5) and that he carries a “thorn in the flesh” (v. 7). Like Paul, we too carry thorns which could mean worldly handicaps such as physical temptations or moral struggles. In 1Cor. 9, he says, “Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly — I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (vv. 25-27). He further says in chapter 10:12, “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.” And, lastly, he also tells us, “I have competed well — I have finished the race— In have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord , the just judge, will award me on that day, and not only me, but to all who have longed for his appearance” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
Whichever one’s approach to salvation is, that believe should be exemplified in the way one lives their life just as Paul’s life did. Anyone can say that he or she is saved, is being saved or has been redeemed. But until your actions, your works, show who you are in Christ, I will question that commitment to Christ. Why? Because others will — the world will. God can see the sincerity of one’s heart. But one shows that sincerity to the world with their works. We can share our testimony with other people. But if our way of leaving does not reflect who we are in Christ, what our beliefs are, then that testimony will fall on death ears.
We all fall short according to Paul. Our Christian life is indeed like a race where we will encounter obstacles. Our goal is to finish that race, to pick ourselves up when we fall, and others along the way, so that we can inherit an imperishable crown when we cross the finish line.
This is not about who’s interpretation of Scripture is right or wrong. This is not about TELLING others who you are, what you believe in or what God has done for you. To the contrary. This is about SHOWING others who you are, what you believe in and what God has done for you. That should be one’s testimony. If you are not showing then it negates the telling. “Be doers of the word and not hearers only” (St. James 1:22).