A good testimony sells. At least that is what a lot of people think when it comes to picking someone to recount how God saved them. We like the testimony of the former drug addict, crazy partier, or promiscuous girl. We tend to think that this person tells a better story, a more compelling story of God’s grace and forgiveness. We use the story of the woman who wiped Jesus’ tear-stained feet with her hair. She was forgiven of a lot, which is why she was so grateful for Jesus. The magnitude of her sin compelled her to weep and thank Jesus for his grace. But is her story really that different from anyone else’s?
Before God saved me my life was similar to this woman. I loved my sin and enjoyed it lavishly. But if my story was different, and I had trusted Christ at an early age, my testimony would be no less amazing. In fact, it might even be more compelling. It’s easy to sin. It’s not out of the ordinary to engage in sinful behavior and be proud of it. What’s hard is to follow Christ whole-heartedly when the world is pulling you to jump in and enjoy the “fun.” A life that is protected from the outward manifestations of blatant rebellion towards God should cause us to worship and rejoice in God’s good work in the life of this believer.
So why do we gravitate towards, and praise, the “crazy” testimony? We are products of the entertainment culture. We like the sensational and the interesting. Reality television alone is evidence of this. But as true and Christ-exalting as these testimonies can be sometimes, I think they can almost do more damage than good in the lives of those who hear it.
In high school I heard a number of testimonies of people who were saved out of sinful lifestyles, and even though they gave glory to God for their salvation, what kept ringing through my mind as they talked was “I want a testimony like that.” As sinful as they made their former life sound, it had a forbidden allure. In my mind, they lived life to the fullest and lived unscathed to tell the story. Plus, sin always looks more enticing than the gospel to an unregenerate person.
But I was so wrong.
I now have their story, and I would give my life to take it back. And I don’t think I’m alone. Countless kids hear shocking testimonies and think that it would be really cool to have a testimony like that. It’s not. One of the ways we can help counter the overwhelming interest in the “sensational” testimonies is to not cater to the hype surrounding them. Don’t believe the myth that if they just hear all the sordid details about the wild life you, or someone else, lived they will suddenly fall on their face and proclaim Jesus as Lord. They might not. And even if they do, for every kid who follows Christ because of the story there are a dozen who it has the counter effect on. This doesn’t mean we aren’t honest about who we are and who Christ saved. It just means we don’t put all of our faith in the story being the means of salvation.
The next time you ask someone to give a testimony at a youth event consider asking the girl or guy who was saved at the age of 5. I remember one of my pastors saying, often with tears in his eyes, “God saved me from a life of drinking, sex, and debauchery—all before I turned 6.”
Grace is amazing not because of the recipient of the grace, but because of the One giving the grace. In reality, even the most righteous act we do is like filthy rags before him. No amount of good behavior can please him, so why do we so often think that the “good” testimonies are so boring? That a perfect and holy God would save any of us is cause for celebration. But he does. And that’s why it is so amazing—from the former prostitute to the six-year old praying by her bedside. No one is righteous, but God sent his Son to save sinners like you and me. It’s all undeserved and all free.
The woman who wept before Jesus wasn’t overcome with emotion because she sinned more than everyone else; rather she was overcome with thankfulness because she finally grasped the magnitude of her sin. If you are in Christ, your testimony is just as amazing. That a good God, perfect and right in all of his ways, would send his righteous Son to die for sinners like us is a story worth telling. And it makes even the most “boring” testimonies in the eyes of the world glorious because of what he has done.