Witnessing Without Words

Yesterday, while working in my yard, my thoughts turned to a former co-worker named Joan. When I knew her, Joan was not a Christian. I don’t know if she is one today. Yet she did more to encourage my faith than probably any pastor I’ve had. She also taught me an important lesson about witnessing for Christ.

Joan and I worked in a grocery store bakery. I decorated cakes; she made donuts. Our manager, Bonnie, attended my church. Bonnie was very outgoing about her faith. If a customer mentioned that he or she was sick or in trouble, Bonnie would offer to pray for them–right there in the store! Bonnie didn’t bother much with passing out tracts or literature; she practically preached from the bakery counter. When the occasion called for it, she made it clear to her fellow employees that she wanted nothing to do with anything questionable or worldly. Bonnie was the kind of Christian my youth group always encouraged me to be: the conspicuous kind. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t me. I didn’t exactly keep my faith a secret; everyone knew I attended church with Bonnie. But I didn’t feel comfortable inserting Jesus into every conversation or praying with others at the counter.

Needless to say, Joan wasn’t interested in any of Bonnie’s attempts to convert her. Whenever Bonnie started going on about worldliness or the provision of God, Joan just shook her head. Joan and her entire family were staunchly anti-religion. Her daughter even dabbled in witchcraft. Yet, to me, Joan was the most interesting person there. She was funny and sarcastic. We got along great.

Now, Bonnie and I decorated cakes with another woman named Pam. Pam was also a Christian and often played piano at church. This posed something of a problem. The bakery required us to have at least one cake decorator on duty every day, including Sunday. Like most conservative Christians, Bonnie thought working on Sundays was wrong. She also sang in the church choir, as did I. Making out the schedule caused an uproar every week. Bonnie and Pam always wanted Sunday off, and I didn’t think it was fair for me to work every Sunday–especially since it was often my only day off from both work and college.

Finally, we came to an arrangement: We would rotate Sundays. This worked for maybe two weeks. Then the excuses started. Pam couldn’t work her assigned Sunday because she had to play a special song that day. Bonnie couldn’t work because the choir needed her. Suddenly, I was stuck working three Sundays out of four. And I was not happy about it.

I did my best to endure this situation. But one Sunday morning, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I stumbled into the bakery at 6 a.m. too angry to mumble a coherent “hello” to Joan or anyone else. I’m sure I must have sighed quite a bit and banged a few pans. My mood improved little as the morning wore on. I was fed up!

Just as I had resigned myself to my misery, Joan pulled me aside. “April,” she said, “what these women are doing to you isn’t fair. I see it, and everyone else sees it. They make you work nearly every Sunday, then come in here and whine about the one Sunday they do work. But you don’t complain. You come in here and do your job like it’s any other day and don’t try to skip out early. That, to me, says more about your faith than singing in the choir or praying in front of others. To me, you’re the real Christian here.”

Needless to say, my day suddenly improved 1,000 percent!

Now, I’m not claiming that I was a better Christian than Bonnie or Pam. Bonnie, in her outgoing way, probably ministered to dozens of people during her time on earth. (She has since passed away from breast cancer.) But Joan helped me to realize something: People see and hear more than just testimonies and public prayers. They’re watching to see how Christians handle their anger, treat others, and deal with unpleasant situations. They’re looking for consistency of character. Christ’s character.

If you’re a Christian, you are a witness for Christ–not just with your words and actions, but also with your attitude and demeanor. You don’t have to preach from tabletops or lay hands on people in the supermarket to get the unsaved’s attention. You already have their attention. When you have a job to do, do you do it with “all your might” as the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 9:10? When you lose your temper, do you apologize afterward? When you are forced to work with an unpleasant person, do you exercise patience and grace? Do you keep your commitments, or try to wiggle out of them when convenient? Be honest. The world is watching.

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