For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.
1 Thessalonians 2:9-10
It has been knit on many a pillow: “People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” You may call it a cliché, and you’d probably be right. But it’s also true. A message of truth rings hollow if there isn’t an authentic life that backs it up. Who we are as we live out the gospel has a massive affect on the weight of our words.
We have been riding the theme of “gospel witness” from 1 Thessalonians 2 for a couple weeks now. These two verses reveal another key dynamic:
Gospel witness is authenticated by gospel-centered conduct.
Our message doesn’t mean much if our lives are marked by traits that contradict it. Paul reminded the Thessalonians: “You are witnesses, and God also.” This was his way of saying that it wasn’t simply how he appeared to them, if that was the case he wouldn’t call on God as his witness. This was Paul saying, “My life among you was transparent, authentic, and it backed up my message.”
I don’t think this means we have to be perfect if we are going to bring the gospel to people. We’re bringing the message of Jesus, who was perfect because we are sinful. When Paul says that their conduct was “holy, righteous, and blameless,” it only squares with his total theology if we realize he is saying that they were “Christ-centered.” In Christ we are saved and made holy, in Christ we are righteous, and in Christ we are blameless because he took our blame.
Gospel witness is authenticated by Christ-centered, gospel-centered conduct. A veneer of perfection is not the means or method of bringing the truth of the gospel to people, a transparent life is. Our message will be as real to people as the life that backs it up.