A Reason for the Hope
1 Peter 3:14–16 says:
“14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ” (KJV).
A more modern translation of the same reads:
“If with heart and soul you’re doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you’re still better off. Don’t give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath” (The Message).
Or more conventionally:
“14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, 15 but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame” (Holman Christian Standard Bible).
I was prompted to write this post because of what I had been reading online with regard to attacks on the Christian faith. I have noticed more and more how hostile people become when they write a post confronting a believer online. They always want to know why or what is the Reason for the Hope we hold to. I’m not terribly surprised by this but it struck me for some reason how savagely some people will attack your faith. The question then is how should we respond? What is a reasonable answer for the hope we hold in our hearts?
A recurring theme by many nonbelievers, atheists in particular, is that Christians are stupid individuals, gullible, easily duped by fairy tales and made up stories. They attack with vigor the existence of the Almighty and anyone who subscribes to a belief in His presence and His gospel is a fool. Many times I have seen them attack the sanity of Christians and demand a Reason for the Hope we have in our hearts for what Jesus Christ has promised. They routinely posit that our arguments for the existence of God, our faith in Jesus Christ or our desire to follow Church teaching is based on fallacy and error, that we err because we cannot prove our case in any natural sense. They seek proofs based in science and the scientific method and when we do not offer any, they take this as a sure sign that we have not a foot to stand on.
I Peter 3:14-16 admonishes believers to be ready to respond to critics and unbelievers and to do so with humility and a meek heart. Our response should be reasoned but without malice. The essence of the passage in my opinion is that we must be ready at all times to defend why we love our Lord and why we place our hope in Him. We should be able to explain why we love Him. We should be able to say why our hope for eternal life, a better life, a happier and more fulfilled life, both now and in the hereafter, rests with Him. What is the Reason for the Hope we have?
The passage doesn’t tell us to argue with unbelievers. The passage doesn’t say that we are to fight against people in word or deed about their skepticism. We are instructed to give a Reason For the Hope we have. Here is why I think the passage tells us to give a Reason for the Hope we have or defend our hope in Christ with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:16): anger is a fear response. Anger is provoked out of weakness and insecurity neither of which should a Christian harbor if they are resting in Jesus Christ who has not given us the spirit of fear but of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). You argue and fight with someone when you only rely on yourself and you feel over matched. You don’t fear when you are confident of the outcome or when victory is already guaranteed right? So the passage is about resting in the sure knowledge of your salvation; thusly, you don’t have to fear and argue with unbelievers about this faith you have. You can respond in humility because you know what you have received and you realize what the opposition is missing out on, that God’s grace would so abound in your life as to bathe you in eternal life when you rightly deserved death and this is humbling.
So minus fear, we are free to speak of our heartfelt love for Him who first loved us. We are free to discuss the bloom in our life since coming into the truth and hearing the good news. We can give our Reason for the Hope we have in Jesus Christ in confidence. We are free to defend our right to embrace the free gift of God. Bottom line is we believe because we have a free will and God has graciously given to each of us a measure of faith (Romans 12:3) so that with what little we have, we can gain all!!
So don’t take these attacks personally. You have a right to believe in God and no one can take that away from you. Share your joy with whoever asks, share your hope and love with whoever questions you, but never fear that your answer will be inadequate. There is no wrong answer to the question of why you believe in Jesus Christ!! Also remember this one last thing. I Peter 3:14-16 does not instruct us to defend God!!! The Father is more than able to defend Himself. He has that well covered I believe. All He asks of us is to share our hope with them that don’t have hope. Speak from your heart and take comfort in His grace. Your Reason for the Hope and love you have for God will be sufficient for the task.