I usually leave people my contact information and an invitation to further conversation or to attend church. Not this time. I may be wrong, but sometimes I feel it is better to remain anonymous after a witnessing conversation. In this case, I had reached out to Robert, a college professor, at a coffeeshop. He was busy working on his computer, but took time to talk when he heard my question about what happens after we die. Robert believes we will be accountable to God after we die, but rejects any personal consideration about his eternal fate. He feels that even to talk about the possibilities taints the good deeds he does in this life with selfish motives. As we talked I focused on three main points – 1.) the fact that a desire to be with our Creator into eternity is not selfish; 2.) that in my experience those who claim not to care about their fate really are not concerned because they believe they will end up in heaven anyway, so “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”; and 3.) his assertion that a relationship with God shouldn’t be based on a tally system of good and bad deeds. This last point we agreed on, but the fact that he was so concerned about whether his good deeds are “tainted” by selfish motives for heaven showed me he really misunderstands the Gospel. Christianity is the only religion that, in fact, is not based on a tally system. Jesus paid it all on the cross, so those who trust Him have no worries that our good deeds will tip the scale in our favor toward heaven. We are free to joyfully love and serve God without fear, because “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 John 4)
So why didn’t I leave my contact information? Our conversation wasn’t that long, maybe about 15 minutes. Eventually he said he had to get back to his computer work. Throughout Robert seemed suspicious of my intentions, and I’m pretty sure it was because he suspected ulterior motives like my just trying to get him to repeat a mindless conversion prayer, or just trying to recruit church members, or trying to earn points with God or fellow Christians by putting notches on my evangelistic belt. He had really stressed several times his disdain for any sort of “tally system” for good behavior, so to emphasize my point that as Christians we are freed to serve God without having to prove ourselves by human effort, I left him with my well wishes and only my first name and no expectation of seeing him again.
In three out of the four references to our calling as disciples of Jesus, we are called only to be “witnesses”; only in the fourth are we called to “make disciples”. I believe this is for a reason. While it is right to strive to make and encourage disciples of Jesus, in so doing we need to understand that we will often only be witnesses. We are just one small part of the process. We may plant, someone else may water, still others will be part of the harvest, but God orchestrates the growth. We need to accept the fact that we will often only be anonymous witnesses in people’s lives, and that we may never hear how God used our testimony, at least this side of heaven. In fact, most people I leave contact information or invitations with never get back to me, but that doesn’t mean God didn’t work through our conversation. It is often simply a matter of loving obedience. Are you willing to be an anonymous witness?