It was my habit to take notes of my former pastor’s sermons (late Dr. Jerome McNeil, Jr) as a way for me to remember his inspiring thoughts. I remember once struggling to keep up with the rapid pace of his words then he said three words that made me stop writing mid sentence. He said that we should be “witnesses without regrets. “I underlined the phrase in my notes but found myself later that same day looking at them and wondering if there was more to those three simple words.
Scriptures mention the importance of being a truthful witness is Proverbs 12:17, “A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies” and Proverbs 21:28. I was talking to a friend of mine about the idea of witness without regrets and he pointed me to Romans 1:16-17: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. In the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Being a witness without regrets doesn’t necessarily mean that you act like you don’t make mistakes. For me, it means that I faithfully trust God, believe in his word and submit to his power and authority. It’s not always easy, but it’s always best.
Lately, I’ve been thinking more about those three words. I haven’t whipped out my bible and quoted verses as I was waiting in line at the movies or at the grocery store, but I just had a greater sense that as a witness without regrets, what I said and how I acted mattered….and not just for me.
While on vacation a few years ago, I was led by the Holy Spirit to pray with a friend about a family situation. In the middle of the prayer, she burst out laughing. After about 30 seconds, she apologized for finding it funny that I prayed for God “to peel back the layers of deception in the situation like an onion.” She said it reminded her of Shrek and his love of onions. I chuckled and then resumed praying. Ironically, a few days later she admitted that like we prayed, “layers of the onion were being peeled back.”
The Greek word for witness is martyr, one who sacrifices something of great value for a strong belief. Thinking about the idea of witnessing without regret, the focus should be living with sacrificial integrity. In the past, I have said “I’m a Christian,” as a way to excuse my poor behavior but I realize now that it didn’t do much for my Christian witness. Witnessing without regret isn’t necessarily what happens in church on Sunday morning but it is what happens after the church service ends.
Shewanda Riley is a Dallas, Texas based author of “Love Hangover: Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @shewanda.