Swimming in Context

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

Ever had someone quote that to you and ask when the last time anyone asked YOU about YOUR hope? As if to say that there is something wrong with the way you live your life as a Christian if people aren’t asking. Or perhaps you’ve seen this verse used as a proof text for showing that all Christians must be actively sharing their faith like mini-Billy Grahams or something? I believe I’ve used it that way.

But I’ve never met anyone who was point-blank asked, “What is the reason for this hope you have?” This kind of inclines me to think that maybe we’re misusing this verse. Consider the broader context it is in:

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. – 1 Peter3:14-17

Do you see it? The context is not Christians living regular old Christian lives, the context is persecution and suffering. When you’re persecuted and yet still hopeful people will ask. And then we must be ready with an explanation. And hope by the way.

This I have heard of. Joseph Tson was a Christian pastor in Ceausescu’s Romania. He was regularly arrested and tortured and yet maintained his joy in Christ. He would be tortured and released and ordered to return the next day. And he would return. It blew his interrogator’s mind. He even once apologized to his tormentor and asked forgiveness because he allowed himself to hate the man. Tson regularly included the gospel in his answers. Years later he met the man who tortured him and the man confessed that there was something about Tson that was compelling. As far as I know, he never became a believer but he was impacted by Tson’s joy and love in the face of horrible circumstances.

I think that’s what Peter was expecting, not so much that someone would appear at my cube and ask me about my joy. Do you see why context is important? There is no point beating yourself up over this verse unless you are under persecution and your joy in Christ is not evident. There are other parts of the Bible that show that Christians should be sharing their faith with those they know. Pay heed to them.

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