Suffering = Evangelism

by Jan 26, 2012

Bill Clem:

“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” (1 Pet. 3:15).

This verse is a favorite of apologists because it talks about being ready to defend your hope with a rationale. Some people forget to see that the trigger to a discussion of the gospel is some- one’s asking about it. In the context of this verse, it is the believer who is suffering without complaint who gets asked about his faith. Enduring suffering well and being questioned can’t be scheduled in a two-day planner.

Many just arm themselves with a defense for their faith whether or not they are asked for it, which feels about like inviting yourself to a neighbor’s house for dinner because you want to change your neighbor’s eating habits. Unfortunately, most defenses of the faith lead with an attempt to convert someone of another faith to Christ without building the friendship that can bear the weight of heavy questions and truth.

Let’s reframe defend in terms of living missionally. How does the opportunity for a defense of your hope arise? You or someone you know experiences a crisis and then the question arises: “Why did God let this happen?” or, “How can you believe in a God that would let this happen?” At this point, the rehearsed or researched answers just come across as too polished; unbelievers questioning the nature of God want to hear what is fermenting in your soul, not lines you have memorized. So it is at this moment the gospel and the kingdom of God are subjected to the volatile context of life for their articulation.

This is what it means to be on mission with God. It was when Jesus wept that they believed he loved Lazarus (John 11:35). It was when he calmed a storm in the midst of the disciples’ terror that they worshiped him as God (Luke 8:22–25). It was at midnight when cells opened and life was at risk that a jailer asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:25–40).