When we moved to a new area and found that we needed to find some tradespeople to do a number of jobs that we could not do ourselves, what did we do? We could have looked at Yellow Pages or some other directory, or Checkatrade which claims to have unbiased reports on local firms. However, we chose to ask around – people at our new church and our neighbours, those who seemed to us to have similar interests and standards. In this way we looked for personal recommendations (or even warnings) which would be so much more significant than the other sources of information available to us, and we were very grateful for the guidance thus received from trustworthy sources.
Such is the witness, indeed the personal recommendation that John gives as he introduces his pastoral guidance, “our theme is the Word which gives life” as the Revised English Bible puts it. He could share personal experience and wanted to do so in a way to which his readers and hearers could relate.
How effective am I, are we, at sharing personal faith in ways to which our contemporaries can relate? The fault may have been mine but over the years there have been a few times when I have cringed at some of the testimonies I have heard from seemingly over-earnest Christians – but at least I could understand what their witness was about; too often I suspect that my witness has been bland at best, or even apologetic, so that others could be forgiven for not understanding how important my Christian faith is to me.
When it is relevant to a situation shared personal experience from those whose credibility we trust is so effective when we can report with John, “what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands” – and as in so many ways, “Actions speak louder than words.”