Connections 05.21.2017: A Ready Defense

1 Peter 3:13-22

I grew up hearing 1 Peter 3:15b: “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” At times it was almost a threat: “You never know when someone may ask you about your belief in Christ, so you’d better be ready with an answer!” And the answer was supposed to involve an explanation of how I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, walked the aisle at church to announce my decision publicly, and then sealed the deal with baptism at a later date. In my case, these three things were followed by several further occasions of “rededication,” usually at a youth camp during an emotional, prolonged altar call by the speaker.

If all of this sounds a bit melodramatic and superficial…well, it was. It always left me wanting something more, feeling incomplete, unsure I had arrived at the point where God wanted me to be. Years and years later, I understand my own faith and God’s grace a bit better, and for me 1 Peter 3:15b is no longer about the so-called “Roman road to salvation” or any other become-a-Christian gimmick. It’s about knowing who I am and whose I am.

Who am I? I am a faulty, failing, well-meaning, struggling, yearning, generally good-hearted person who has absolutely no mind-blowing testimony of what Jesus did for me when I decided to follow him. Whose am I? Somehow, in spite of my simple story, I belong to Jesus. I know who I am and whose I am.

When asked to give a defense for the hope that is in me, I will probably look at the person sheepishly and shrug with my palms upturned. My answer is as simple as the answer of the man who regained his sight when Jesus healed him. You can read the story in John 9. Several times, people asked this healed man, “How did it happen? Who did this for you? What kind of man is he?” The healed man did his best to explain, but his truest answer was probably given with a sheepish look and a shrug with upturned palms. I like the way the song by Caedmon’s Call puts it: “All I know is I was blind, and now I see. All I know is he healed me.”

How did my healing happen? What is the source of my hope? How could it be true? All I know is that I was broken, and now I’m patched up. All I know is I was despairing, and hope found me in the darkness. All I know is that however impossible the love and light and life of Christ sound, they are all true for me.

When someone asks me why I believe what I believe, I have a ready defense. It may come with a shrug and a sheepish look, but my answer is indisputable. You can argue with me all day long that Jesus is still dead, that faith is silly, or that God isn’t real. All I know is I was blind, and now I see. All I know is he healed me. I stake my faith on what I have experienced personally. I pray that you can do the same.

Source: Caedmon’s Call, “All I Know,” My Calm, Your Storm, 1994.

Discussion

1. If someone asked you to defend your hope in Christ, what would you say?
2. Why do you think it’s important to have an answer explaining the source of our hope?
3. Have you ever asked another person where their strength, their hope, and their faith come from? If so, what was the answer? What did it tell you about the power of Christ in their life?
4. Do you think a simple answer like “All I know is I was blind, and now I see” is enough? Why or why not?
5. How could you condense your hope in Christ into a similar statement that is nonetheless powerful and certain?

Reference Shelf

Do not Be Afraid—Testify! 3:13-17

“And who will mistreat you if you become zealots for good? But even if you might suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. ‘Do not be afraid or terrified of them,’ but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always [being] ready to give a reply to anyone who asks you a word concerning the hope in you, but with meekness and fear, having a good conscience, so that whenever they slander you, those who revile your good manner of life in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if God should wish it so, to suffer for doing good rather than for doing evil.”

Having just quoted the lines from LXX Psalm 33 urging readers to do the right thing, 1 Peter turns to how this might work out in readers’ lives. “Who will mistreat you” cannot be a straightforward statement, given what the author has already written about slaves who are beaten because their masters are cruel (2:18-20), and given what he will say in this section about slander. To be plain: 1 Peter cannot mean that if his readers were especially good they could avoid mistreatment. So perhaps v. 13 is meant hopefully: “be conspicuously good, and most of the time outsiders will leave you alone.” Or, “be conspicuously good, and you will win over those who may have been inclined to mistreat you.” Or perhaps 1 Peter means to stress that God’s protection is ultimate, and that even if your adversaries do terrible things to you, you cannot be irrevocably harmed because you belong to God. Or perhaps it is ironic: “Who will mistreat you? Well, we could start a list of those who already have.” It is hard to judge between these alternatives.

Richard Vinson, “1 Peter,” 1 & 2 Peter, Jude, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2010) 163–64.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. She attends church and leads an adult Sunday school class in Macon, Georgia. She is also the office administrator for Jay’s HOPE, a local charity serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her daughters, Samantha (12) and Natalie (10) and her husband John. For fun, she tries to stay caught up on the latest amazing TV series (including Doctor Who, Sherlock, Gilmore Girls, and The Crown).

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