The Apologetic of Hope

The most often quoted Bible verse concerning apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Christians typically focus in on the word “defense” as the key word in the verse. The original Greek word is in fact where we derived our term “apologetics” from in the first place so one would be justified in picking it out as the most important word in the verse, or so we think. But there is a more important word here.

When read in context this verse is part of an instruction to Christians in the midst of persecution. Peter tells them to make sure they never do anything to deserve the persecution but instead to show themselves to be hoping in their God. The key word in this verse is not “defense” but “hope”.

Christian, has a non-believer ever asked you what gives you so much certain expectation in God amid your trials? Apologetics begins with hope in God, not with discussions with people. That should be a result of our hope. Apologetics is not really about questions so much as questioners – real people with real lives who need someone in whom they can hope. This goes far beyond discussions and information to souls.

The early church had the greatest boon to apologetics: persecution. The world around the early church punished them severely and Peter knew that as Christ had gone to His death obedient to the Father so the Christians should live amid death hoping in their savior. It was that kind of outlandish hope that would cause the persecutors to wonder at the Christians’ reasons for holding so dearly to their Christ.

The thing that really makes apologetics difficult in America is not the hostility to Christians but the comfort of Christians. There are certainly individuals and groups in the U.S. that are hostile to Christians but by and large few terribly violent things happen to Christians here. You might like to think you are persecuted because your family gatherings are awkward or because strangers are not excited that you want to talk to them about why they need Jesus before you even asked their name. You are not persecuted. American Christians have learned to fight for their rights and to seek to always be the dominant force in their country because of course, they seem to reason, God could never will anything for them except to run the country and be left alone. The mentality that Christians are persecuted in America but should be dominant ought to be reversed. We are not truly persecuted but evangelism would benefit if we were. The church is growing in places like Iran and China by incredible measures while in the U.S. it is largely becoming flabby and sleepy at best, conceited and flamboyant at worst. Peter would be the first to say that we should not do anything to instigate persecution, however we should allow our persecution to instigate hope and allow hope to invite the world’s questions.

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