1 Peter 3:14-16 – 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 (Greek: apologian) 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.
a•pol•o•get•ics | əˌpäləˈjetiks |
When people think of apologetics, they typically think of some sort of intellectual debate or argument defending the Christian faith against some form of intellectual opposition. Though there are contexts where this type of debating can be helpful, this is not what apologetics was meant to be.
1 Peter 3:15 is the classic text from which the term apologetics comes from. People often take the verse to mean something like, “always be prepared to defend Christianity.” This leads people to spend time learning intellectual rebuttals to intellectual attacks on the faith. The reality is though, that’s not what Peter was talking about. In the context of the letter, Peter is encouraging suffering Christians to live as God’s distinct and holy people. Specifically in chapter 3, he is encouraging these persecuted Christians to have unity, sympathy, love, and humility toward all people; to refrain from retaliation, to love their enemies, to seek peace with all people, all the while looking to Jesus as the supreme example of this type of faithful witness. Peter knows that when the Christian community lives this unique type of life, it will inevitably provoke questions about the source of this unusual and attractive hope.
“How is it that you all can love like you do?” “How can you remain faithful in the face of suffering?” “Why do you serve people who mistreat you?” “Where does your hope come from?” Peter says, when these questions come, be prepared to give a reason (apologia) for the hope that is in you?
Apologetics then, is answering the questions raised by the distinctive lifestyle of our Christian community.
If this is the case, the main question for us as the Christian community is: Are we actually living in a way that would provoke these types of questions? Is our lifestyle distinct from the world’s? Do we love people that are unlovable? Do we serve people who are thankless and unappreciative? Do we have hope in the midst of suffering? Do we give to those in need even when it hurts? And do we do these things in context where this love can be seen and experienced by those who do not know Christ?
In other words, is our Christian community an attractive light in the midst of a broken city? And are we living in a way to make that light visible to the people around us who still live in darkness?