…in your hearts regard 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.
—1 Peter 3:15-16 ESV
Peter writes that the answer we must always have ready is our reason for our hope in Christ.
I emphasize that point because too often I see that our defense comes down to answering more than we should. We open our mouths and wax poetic over any and all subjects as if the world’s wisdom rested solely between our ears. For some, it is a life’s calling squeezing an infinite God into a diminutive box that can be attached to a keychain and whipped out when the need to go somewhere important calls.
In November, I will be 43. I’ve been a Christian for 29 years. On most doctrinal issues I’ve crafted a bullet-proof answer for anyone who asks. But I have less of them than I once did. What I desire to have instead of an answer for everything is the reason for my hope in Christ. I need to ensure that answer is always buffed and ready for the asking.
I think too many Christians suffer from a need to have not just their reason ready for their hope in Christ, but their reason for all that is, both seen and unseen. Ensuring that no one ever finds a chink in the spiritual edifice they’ve constructed drives them. They must possess an answer to everything.
But even the Bible leaves some questions unanswered. We don’t know exactly what heaven looks like, for instance. We know that Enoch and Elijah were taken up into heaven without dying, but how exactly does that work? And are they really the two witnesses returned to earth as described in Revelation? What are all the things that Jesus did that aren’t written down in the Bible, as the last verse in the Gospel of John says at its end? And those are only a few mysteries; I’m sure you could come up with plenty more.
When did “I don’t know” become the hardest thing for Christians to say? Why do some Christians feel compelled to answer life’s every question? Some of the men through whom God spoke, men who wrote the very words of the Bible, weren’t so bold as to provide a running discourse on every subject imaginable. Some had the nerve to say
Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a virgin.
—Proverbs 30:18-19 ESV
The writer of Proverbs here didn’t try to erect an entire epistemology to explain these wonderful things. Why do so many Christians today think they can do better? Has God left us no enigmas at all?
I think it comes down to pride and fear. Pride in our ability to answer. Fear that if we cannot, the chink in our doctrinal armor will have been exposed. If only more Christians left enigmas alone rather than answer the way they do.
The one answer we should always be ready to give is based off the question, “Why do you hope in Jesus?” Our answer ultimately matters more than all others. Go back to the Bible and reason from it, but don’t forget that the answer always contains an element of the personal. Something of you has to be in there, something that no one else on the planet shares in common. Your story of faith in Christ matters. It is my hope that you know it well enough for it to be your “always answer.”