Peter Stockland’s excellent blog this week reminds us that “we are called to engage in the political life of our country not to win but to witness. We are called as witnesses of Christ in whatever worldly glory or madness plays itself out before us.”
But what does it mean to be a witness of Christ? Where do we look for evidence of this kind of witness?
Increasingly, I think, the best place to find such witness is at a Christian funeral.
I know that, at first glance, this seems ridiculous. How can one be a witness when one is cold, dead, and in a casket? Isn’t death the very end of witness? No, it’s not. As is quite clear in the recent B.C. Supreme Court decision, life and death have something to do with each other. That connection, and the way death is considered—in both law and life—says a lot about how one considers life.
At a Christian funeral I attended today, I witnessed the clearest articulation of this I can imagine. “What,” the minister overseeing the funeral asked, “is your only comfort in life and in death?” The congregation answered the same way that the departed did just prior to her death:
“That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful saviour Jesus Christ.”
I am not my own. Not in life, not in death. I belong to God.
These words, I think, are perhaps the most prophetic words a Christian can utter in North America today. Like all catechisms, it shapes the way we form and maintain laws, relationships, and businesses.
To be the effective witness that Peter reminds us we need to be, we need to take this answer seriously. My time spent at the funeral this morning reminded me of the impact that a life lived with the sure knowledge that “I am not my own” can have. Families, neighbourhoods, schools, and businesses are changed for the better because of these small words.
We’ve seen this past week that despair and destruction are both personal and public. The small words spoken at the funeral—and the testament from family, friends, customers, and neighbours—are proof that an assurance of eternity—eternity won for us by God himself—is the best antidote to despair and destruction.
What does it mean to be a witness? It means being “wholeheartedly willing and ready, from now on” to live for someone else, someone who orchestrates things far beyond our field of vision. A witness sees from only one small and limited perspective, but their presence is important to understanding the bigger picture.