“Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15)
Peter lays out a simple lifestyle approach:
- Live a lifestyle of love and others-orientation
- Hold Jesus in higher honor than what others think of you
- Keep your gospel bags packed
Keep your gospel bags packed? What does that mean? Jennifer and I are expecting anytime the birth of our second daughter. Kiralee came a little early and many people have their second sooner. So about a week ago we got all our things together. Toiletries. Clothes. Snacks. It’s all in there. Why? We never know when this little girl will want to make her appearance. Whenever it is, our bags are packed. We can go on a moment’s notice. We are ready.
Have you noticed how opportunities to share about Jesus in your life generally come unexpectedly? We generally don’t know they are coming. That’s why Peter says that we should always be ready. Ready to do what? “To make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”
If you read this to say, be ready with all your arguments to confront anyone with the gospel, you are misreading it. Look carefully, how does this conversation start? Anyone who asks you for a reason. Do you see what Peter is assuming? Our lives will create questions in the heart of the unbeliever. Peter is assuming a certain level of relationship where the unbeliever observes the way we live. This appeals to the Imago Dei in him and it prompts him to ask, what’s up with you? This isn’t to say there’s not a place for Mars Hill type preaching. But the vast majority of us aren’t going to do that or be good at that.
What Christian can’t love someone? Serve someone selflessly? Live the kind of normal Christian life that creates questions, wonderings, and holy curiosity.
Too often we give our answers when they aren’t asking questions and they aren’t asking questions because our lives aren’t creating them.
“For Pascal presenting someone with a list of proofs for Christianity or evidence for faith is probably a waste of time. If someone basically doesn’t want to believe, no amount of proof (or proof texts) can ever convince her. And even if she were convinced, then it wouldn’t be the Christian God she had come to believe in, but only what Pascal called “the God of the philosophers.” The crucial factor in persuading someone to believe, then, is not to present evidence, but first to awaken a desire for God in them. In other words, when commending Christianity to people, “make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.” Such arguments as there are for Christianity can convince those who hope it is true, but will never convince those who don’t.” (Graham Tomlin, Total Church, p. 179.)
Peter says that there is one aspect of a Christian lifestyle that the unbeliever will be most curious about. Hope. “Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15, emphasis added) What is hope? Confidence about the future that provides calm and assurance today. When is that most on display? When we are in a trial. When we are suffering. When our future is uncertain.
We can’t help but be optimistic about the future. Eternal life with Jesus is going to be great. The comforting work of the Holy Spirit in our trials is real. The world doesn’t have that and experiences devastation in their lives just like we do. As they see how we respond with hope, it pricks something in their ancient DNA. There is an echo of a truth in their conscience. Something about life lived in relationship with their Creator. A time when man’s entire being rested joyfully in God’s promise of provision.
I hear this often. I’ll ask folks, “How did you come to faith?” Often it is a story like, there was this guy at work, or this girl in my college dorm, there was something different about her. And they share a story of intrigue that the Christian’s life produced. That’s what Peter is getting at. When our life elicits a question, our gospel bags are packed and ready to share what? The reason of the hope within us.
Peter isn’t asking if we have answers but whether our lives are creating any questions. This assumes that we are in the community, in our neighborhoods, in proximity to unbelievers where such questions could even be asked. It assumes relationship within which observations can be made and questions can be asked.
“The world today, as we are all well aware, is not very ready to listen to us or to preaching. It tells us it has no interest in theology and dogma, and there may be some truth in that; the world has become psychological, not to say cynical, and it is not prepared to listen to what people say. But when it sees a life which is triumphant, a personality that is clearly victorious, then it begins to pay attention. The first Christians conquered the ancient world just by being Christians. It was their love for one another and their type of life that made such an impact upon that pagan world, and there is no question but that this is the greatest need of the hour—the Christian quality of life being demonstrated among men and women. That is something to which we are all called and something which we can all do.” (Clifford Pond, The Beauty of Jesus, p. 129)
That really is the encouragement here. If I said, to obey God’s Word today you must memorize this chart of questions and answers, we would all be discouraged. But what if Peter is really saying, live lives of love for others and then when they ask you, what gives? Tell them your story of meeting Jesus and the wonderful difference he’s made in your life. Who can’t do that? It’s just the story you’re living. Tell the story.
It’s not books and philosophical answers Peter is calling us to, it’s generous lives lived for others with the hope that naturally shows itself when Jesus is on the throne of your heart.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
©2015 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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