Hope While Suffering
Undoubtedly, the most referenced apologetics verse I have seen is 1 Peter 3:15. “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (NIV).
In many instances, this verse has been plucked out of the context in which it was intended to be read. The focus is toward having well-reasoned answers to questions about or objections against Christianity. Why I agree that this verse does instruct us to be prepared, what was Peter’s original audience facing that would prompt him to write those words?
The terms harm, suffer, threats and frightened appear in verses 13 and 14. In other parts of the letter, Peter tells his readers that they will face trials. It was in the midst of those trials, when the Christians were suffering for doing what was right, that Peter was encouraging them to revere Christ as Lord. Just as it was then, Christ’s followers today are called to live in a manner different from the world around us. We have an eternal hope that supersedes the afflictions we face in our time-bound lives. As we act in reverence to our Lord during our struggles, we shall also be ready to tell everyone why we remain hopeful through difficulty.
We Need to Ask Questions
During “religious” conversations with people I don’t know well, I often hear that all gods are basically the same, why organized religion is evil, or how the church is all about coercing people to give money. Instead of going on the offensive, trying to show these people how they are wrong in their views, I like to ask questions to help me understand the why behind what they think.
Many times I am able to identify with the problems, disappointments and intellectual struggles these people have because I have had similar experiences as well. When we show people that we care about them by listening to their hurts, their experiences, and their disappointment with God, we are building relationships. I don’t want to dismiss these experiences, but rather by letting people express their thoughts and feelings without condemning them, we may have to opportunity to earn their trust. Once we are trusted, our message may be more readily received.
Giving Reasons for Hope is for Everyone
Apologetics gets a reputation of being difficult, intimidating, and reserved for intellectuals that spend their time crafting philosophical arguments to prove Christianity to be true. While it is true that there are apologists that spend time thinking, writing and debating, the heart of apologetics cannot be practiced absent of relationships with people. Without love for people, having answers to difficult questions and arguments for every objection against Christianity won’t persuade anyone to consider faith in Christ.
Every day, each of us has opportunities to be God’s ambassador. When we share the message of Jesus with our hearts and our actions, we will be given opportunity to use our words to give the reason for the hope that we have.
Question: Is there a time when you were willing to listen to someone’s point of view because of the interest they had previously shown in you? How do you think Christians would be received by non-believers if we showed compassion and understanding instead of self-righteousness and condemnation?