“Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”
— 1 Peter 3:15-16a (NRSV)
What we live for is hope, but not just any hope; we live for hope’s foundation: the person of Jesus of Nazareth—the Christ. Everything of hope can be founded upon the Messiah. And these statements are made true whenever any nonbeliever encounters a spiritually gentle and reverent believer who trusts God enough to reflect Jesus’ hope that resides within them through the Holy Spirit.
What better defence is there than the will to do good, even in the midst of those who wrong us? This is the resonance of the hope of Christ—the very foundation of hope—that we would suffer, in uncharacteristic joy, for doing right.
Joy is no characterisation of humanness in the middle of suffering; but hope’s foundation ensures, as we possess it, that we have the rites of passage to the experience of joy when others would find the circumstances hopeless.
As others see hopelessness, the foundation of hope within us helps us hope beyond sight. By faith we, who know Christ, live; not by sight.
Answering Those Who Would Condemn or Misunderstand
When we are disposed to suffering, and we react in ways that are uncharacteristic of humanness, because we are founded in the bedrock of Jesus’ hope, we must be ready for the appropriate answer. People will question us. People will see our responses as absurd. We haven’t quite glorified God, yet.
Our answers to those who would condemn us are how we glorify the Father in the manner of suffering as the Son did.
We need wisdom in answering appropriately.
Sometimes the answer is a silent one, as we leave the questioner to reflect on what we have done (or not done). Sometimes we need to answer in vocal terms, but we should pray for wisdom in the moment to answer well, and not talk too much.
If we have reacted to a bad circumstance in an absurdly good way—per the will of God—and we know a sense of God’s support, by a peace that surpasses our understanding, we still need to be ready to complete the transaction; to answer an unbeliever’s wonder. Only God can help to this end.
When we answer in our flesh we denigrate the anointed action. But when we answer in the Spirit our actions and words act powerfully for God.
It may not be a bad thing to explain to a nonbeliever that we cannot explain how God works miraculously within us. We should not be able to ‘explain’ it. It is proof that God is in us that we cannot describe completely how we have had the power, somehow, to rise above the typical human response in bad circumstances.
Explanations of the hope in us may, therefore, remain a mystery—a mystery with the allure to get unbelievers curious in order that this mysterious power might also become theirs.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.