However, this good life is not an easy life. It sounds ominous when Peter asks, Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? This was the reality the early Christians faced. As a minority faith they were misunderstood and accused of wrongdoing. Peter advised them to live such good lives that these accusations would be proved groundless. Nevertheless, even if they lived this virtuous life, they might still find themselves being accused of wrongdoing. Against this background of persecution Peter wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15) This translation, to give an answer, does not give the fullest sense of what Peter meant. The Greek word he used is apologia which is often translated, defence. It is from this Greek word that we get the term apologetics, as a reasoned defence of Christianity.
We are not in the same situation as the early Christians, nevertheless there may be times when a friend may ask us about our beliefs. For many Christians, the initial question is, Can we give ourselves an answer for what we believe? Many believe without necessarily thinking about why they believe. We will have heard convincing sermons, read books, listened to intelligent speakers, and have heard the witness of people we know and respect. But we haven’t stored these reasons away in an accessible file in our brains, therefore we can’t bring them out easily when needed. Over time we may even have forgotten the reasons we believe. Nevertheless, the vestige of all the evidence helps us to be sure of our faith, even when we can’t articulate it.
Why do you believe in God, in Jesus, in the truth of the bible? Perhaps a personal experience, something in creation, a sunset or birth, love experienced through the kindness of a friend, or the person and teaching of Jesus attracted you; and so you conclude from these the existence of God makes more sense than the non-existence of God. If we can firstly identify the reasons to ourselves, then we can have something to share with others.
If you do want to go deeper than simply sharing your own story, you could learn a little more about apologetics, reasons for belief from:
- the bible, the texts, the manuscripts, the way it has been faithfully translated and passed on from generation to generation
- church history, how the church has grown, the good done through education, medicine, and science
- Christian thought, the great theological thinkers from biblical times, through the church fathers, the reformation and modern thought
- Philosophy arguments from the natural world and logic
What do you learn from 1 Peter 3.8-12 about Christian virtues and the good life? What do you think Peter had in mind when he spoke about a blessing?
Peter suggested two ways of addressing the accusations facing the early Christians (1 Peter 2.12; 1 Peter 3.15). What is your main reason for believing in Jesus? How might you communicate this to others with gentleness and respect?
Rev John Malcolm