Just saying. . . .
I was reading along on my regular thru-the-Bible-in-a-year schedule when I wondered, “where did this verse come from?” It was Leviticus 5:1. I’m sure these words have always been there, but I can’t say I ever noticed them before. “If a person sins because he does not speak up when there’s a public charge to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible.”
Maybe I was sensitive to this because I’ve also been thinking a lot about the concept of witness in light of what Jesus said in Acts 1:8. “You will be my witnesses.”
I firmly believe a witness, in this context, is not a passive state of being. Modern Christian mythology includes a quote from St. Francis of Assisi. “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” The problem is, Francis never said those words. Some writer invented that about 20 years ago. In reality, in order to preach the gospel or to be a witness one must (as Francis did) use words to communicate properly. Better said is what I recently read in a novel, “At a trial somebody had to see it, smell it, touch it, or taste it, then swear [testify, bear witness] to it.”
Having noticed that verse in Leviticus, I’ve looked at various translations and commentaries trying to get a sense of the original meaning. Most commentators point to, but don’t limit it to the Mosaic legal system. As Christopherson writes, “this is saying that it is just as bad [as lying] not to speak up when you know you can verify the facts on a matter.”
My thinking puts this verse together with Ezekiel chapter 3, where God gives the prophet a message for his countrymen. Instead of delivering the message, Ezekiel sits among them completely silent for a full week. Then God calls him to account with these words: “When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.”
When God says “do it,” do it.
Now jump with me all the way to the New Testament, to the book of Acts. With his last words to before rising from earth, Jesus tells the apostles, “you will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth.” Essentially, he was saying you guys have been with me from the time my ministry began. You have experienced (seen, smelled, touched, tasted?) my life, my teaching, my death, and my resurrection. You know truth that most others do not. This is your public charge to intentionally and overtly bear witness to what you have seen and learned. And don’t make me remind you what my Father had to tell Ezekiel. Now get out there and get the job done.
Oh, and by the way, that charge to the apostles. It happened about 2000 years ago. Since it has not been completed yet, does that leave us with the responsibility to be witnesses?
Just saying . . . .