If you have ever had the opportunity to play with or against me in sports you know that I do not like to lose so regardless of the level of my skill at a sport, I will give it my all to win. This basically means that I am a competitor and a quite aggressive one. I never once won MVP on any of my soccer or basketball teams, but I did win most aggressive and defensive player of the year on a few occasions. My middle school basketball coach always said, "Defense is what wins a ball game," so I took that to mean that my part on the team was vital to our success. And I have always said, "What I lack in skill, I make up in aggression."
So recently I was playing basketball with some guys and it got pretty heated, okay it got really heated! I knew that I was getting to the other guy and I thought I had everything under control, right up until I lost it. I am not going to rehash the details here, but let's just say we both acted in ways that we shouldn't have for two grown men playing pick up basketball, but we are both competitors and have a drive to win at all cost.
Our heated moment took place on a public court and after a few minutes of time to cool down we talked it out as brothers in Christ. In case you are wondering, we left it all there on the court, forgave each other, and moved on to play again a few days later. But there was one thought that was posed that night, "The last thing I would want us to do is lose our witness out here."
Because I grew up in church, I knew what was meant by this expression, generally that you do not want your actions to show you acting in a way that does not honor Christ as others are watching. My problem with this statement and idea is that this easily turns into behavior modification, where there is no genuine gospel change. So, let's briefly replay the situation. If in our brief heated moment I did not act out on any emotions, but instead thought to myself how much I hate this person and called them some stupid names. Now, on the surface I kept my cool and "my witness," but on the inside I am corrupt and really lost my witness just as much.
The truth is that at some point we are all going to "lose our witness," because we are sinners but what truly makes us lose our witness is what happens as a result and our reaction after we sin. Take my example on the basketball court for instance. If we had our heated moment, said some things, etc. and left it at that then maybe we would lose our witness because we do not forgive by forgetting. But no, we had a public display of sin against each other and a public display of recognition of our wrong to one another, where we were reconciled (Matt. 18:22). Now, if you ask me that is a beautiful picture of the gospel in our lives, not the potential of losing your witness.