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Witnessing wisely
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By David Foster

Scripture says, “the one who is wise saves lives. … Wisdom is supreme—so get wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:30; 4:7) Jesus counseled using wisdom as we go out to share the good news, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) Similarly, the apostle Paul urged believers in Colossians 4:2-6 to be watchful and wise as they engaged unbelievers in seasoned with salt conversations. These stimulating conversations often prompt thoughtful questions which open the door for us to give a wise answer.

Jesus provides an example of this wisdom in John 4 when he met the woman at the well. He responded appropriately speaking about living water, hinting it was a gift of God. This prompted curious questions from the woman which, in turn opened a door for Jesus to explain eternal life. Not surprisingly, this engaging conversation paved the way for Jesus to explain good news to her neighbors who were also curious. Eventually, after hearing him themselves for two days, they agreed, “he is, indeed, the Saviour of the world.”

Idioms, proverbs & wisdom Not unlike the way in which Christ spoke metaphorically about living water, I recently had an opportunity to use a proverb with an international student who I met when I was delivering a care package. I realized he was quite lonely due to the protracted lock down and also because he had to forgo a trip back to India this summer. This prompted me to tell him a proverb of Solomon which underscores the value of having friends and partners, i.e. “two are better than one ...” (Eccl. 4:9-12)

I met another international student during the lockdown who I'll call “A”. He was really struggling in his ESL class at college. After a brief telephone conversation I agreed to tutor him informally and provide a friendly sounding board to practice speaking English. Early in our friendship he enthusiastically texted me one morning with a smiley emoticon saying: “Good morning. The sun is bright today-:) Good luck & have a great day.”

I replied, “Sunrise is a beautiful symbol of hope” to which he responded, “You can say that again.”

Several days later I commented further about the lovely way light portrays hope. In fact, I sent him a few proverbial sayings: “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.

… In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.” (Proverbs 4:18; 12:28) I also included a quote from Ecclesiastes 3:11, “God has set eternity in the human heart.” My friend deeply appreciated this and has subsequently shown how much he likes it by re-copying this quote to me several times!

I've been praying that God's Spirit will deepen my friend's spiritual hunger. Six weeks after sowing these seeds in his heart, “A” told me that he has decided to read 20 minutes each morning from the English- Arabic Bible which I had loaned to him. On more than one occasion he has told me these readings “feed his soul”, in fact, “They make me feel hungry and thirsty for more.”

Yesterday we sat six feet apart on the grass outside his apartment and talked for 90 minutes. I listened to him as he practiced reading English from John chapter four which recounts the story of the woman at the well. From the expressions on his face and his comments I could see he was impressed by the way Jesus respected this woman who was from such a different, though similar, culture to the Jewish people.

Let us bear in mind that not everyone Jesus touched with kindness was drawn to give praise to his Father in heaven. (Note: the nine ungrateful lepers whom Jesus' healed in Luke 17:11-19) As in the first century, so also today, some people will respond to the kindness shown them in Jesus' name, others won't. But this should never stop us from sharing.

About the Author
Born and raised in Africa, David Foster later served 30 years in South Africa, Zambia and Tanzania. These cross cultural experiences give David a rich multifaceted perspective on interfaith concerns