The Witness of the Gospel as Gift

After putting it down for a while, I’ve picked up Chris K. Huebner’s excellent and challenging book A Precarious Peace: Yoderian Explorations on Theology, Knowledge, And Identity again. Here is a passage that translates a commitment to peace into a rejection of notions of witness that strive to guarantee conversion:

To say that witness is gift is to say that the gospel message is offered in the absence of any additional handles designed to guarantee its reception. The test of witness is not simply whether or not it is received in fact, but whether it is received as gift. The gift of good news is to be received “as it is” or “in its own right” and not by means of an additional vehicle or medium that might guarantee its successful passage. Because the gospel message is that of a peace that rejects the primacy of effectiveness, the message itself is the only available medium. Accordingly, Yoder claims that “the challenge to the faith community should not be to dilute or filter or translate its witness, so that the ‘public’ community can handle it without believing, but to so purify and clarify and exemplify it that the world can perceive it to be good news without having to learn a foreign language.”

Although Yoder emphasizes that the good news turns on being received by the listener, this is not to suggest that it is preoccupied with what people want to hear. Such an assumption would suggest that there is a sense in which the gift is known prior to its being received in such a way that it equally ceases to be a genuine gift. Rather than identifying underlying conditions or developing new strategies for the effective deliverance of the truth, the church is called to embody its otherness in a way that makes intelligible the truth of Christ for the world. To emphasize the missionary existence of the peace church is to suggest that it lives, not as instrument, but as example. The task of the church is thus not to Christianize the world, but to be the church.

Huebner, A Precarious Peace, 131

2 responses to “The Witness of the Gospel as Gift”

  1. That is an amazing quote. I found your blog through common root, but I just wanted to say that this quote has really helped me. My girlfriend is really going to like this quote too. She is in China right now and she has been having difficulty thinking about evangelism in light of where she is.

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