… specifically, testimonies of God’s grace. This is something that I have personally struggled with, and I’m fairly certain many others have as well… both in relation to one’s own testimony of God’s grace (specifically, salvation) as well as responding to others’ testimonies.
It seems we tend to have two problematic responses… or perhaps three. They seem to stem from a low view of depravity, a low view of salvation, and even a low view (or a “cheap” view) of God’s grace.
The Sensationalist in Us
Or, perhaps, the dramatist. We like sensational stories, stories with irony or high contrast, stories that grip us. When it comes to salvation testimonies, testimonies of God’s grace, we seem to be moved far more easily by a sensational story; one of “really bad” sin contrasted by some sort of amazing work of grace.
In other words, a story of someone “unlikely” to be saved that is saved. Is that really accurate, though? I can’t seem to think of any biblical basis for God being more joyful over a “really bad” sinner vs. a “not as bad” sinner. Maybe because there’s not really a “really bad” and “not as bad” sinner… we’re all deserving of hell and we were all in rebellion to God? There seem to be varying degrees of expression of depravity. This does get to some pretty controversial theological issues – such as varying degrees of eternal punishment or whether or not you can sort of be “more sinful” by the amount or kind of sin, etc. Regardless, though, when Christ speaks of joy in heaven over a lost sinner being redeemed, He didn’t qualify how much joy based on how much sin… so maybe we shouldn’t either.
The Jonah in Us
Jonah had a problem: he didn’t want to go preach to Nineveh, not because he was afraid of them (though he had reason to be, they were brutal!) but because he was afraid God would save them because he knew God was merciful. Yikes. He *didn’t* want them to be saved.
We think that’s horrible, of course. So, how about those Muslim terrorists? How about abortion doctors? Drug lords? Presidents that we don’t like? How about Kony?
I know with some of these, I seem to automatically … not really desire them to be saved. Depending on how close to home they have hit (and, admittedly, I haven’t been attacked by Assyrians lately ;)) and how much I’ve personally suffered from them, it gets gradually more of a desire for them NOT to be saved.
Now, obviously, wanting justice is good. But so is wanting men to be saved. There seems to be a tension there.
The “That’s Nice”-ist in Us
I couldn’t think of a nice descriptive word for this one, but this is the reaction to “boring” testimonies. I know I’ve had it. I have a “boring” testimony; Christian family, good church, saved at a young age.
But that’s no less a testimony to God’s grace than any other amazing and sensational story. God, still being in control, perhaps chose to show grace even in my circumstances of being born/raised. I know many others are in this “boat” so to speak.
So, when I hear testimonies like that, I need to remember; young people were just as depraved and still required God’s Son to die on a cross to save them, and those young people still deserved eternity in hell just like a serial murderer or rapist.
Adjectives Used with “Testimony”
So, here’s a question. Having worked through the above, how do we refer to people’s testimonies? For example, he has an awesome testimony! or his testimony is very moving! or great testimony! or …
Are those adjectives I really want to use? Hm. Perhaps “is very moving” is accurate; but shouldn’t any rebellious person that turns to Christ be moving to us? It’s moving to God. How about “great” … shouldn’t all testimonies be great? They seem to be to God. “Awesome” sounds kinda generic these days… but aren’t all graceful movements of God’s love to call a sinner to repentance awesome?
Perhaps our language and response should change. Mine should. For example, I shouldn’t respond more energetically to one testimony given at baptism than another, should I? This is a bit convicting. But, this is all worship, and worship based on the grace and Spirit of God moving in someone else’s life; how is it right that I worship more energetically just because someone happened to sin more, in my eyes, than someone else? Humm.
Feel free to disagree and comment, of course.