Joy and Apologetics: To Anyone Who Asks You

1 Peter 3:15
…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 for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect

This is the go to verse for apologetics. You will find this verse in just about every video, course, book, article, sermon, lecture, podcast, etc., when apologetics is the subject at hand. If you noticed, I underlined two portions of the above reference. I did this because the two underlined segments are usually the more focused upon elements of the citation. Lessons in apologetics usually encourage you to “always being prepared to make a defense for a reason for the hope that is in you,” and when you do, you then need to “do it with gentleness and respect.”

Great advice… and it’s Biblically based.

After these two focal points, the next thing right behind them, which is given much credence in the apologetics lesson, is the beginning of the verse…

1 Peter 3:15
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 for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…

Before we could ever even consider being prepared to make a gentle and respectful defense of the hope that we have, Christ must be at the forefront of our motivation for engaging in an apologetics encounter with people. Such follows the common pattern of the indicative/imperative concept that we see in scripture. In other words, our apologetic action (the imperative) must be grounded in Christ (the indicative).

Again: Great advice… and it’s Biblically based.

To Anyone Who Asks You

Now, that’s all well and good. But, did you ever notice what is often left out of the apologetics lesson equation?

1 Peter 3:15
…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 for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…

I don’t recall ever seeing this small part taught about, nor have I ever really seen it addressed that much, if at all. Peter says that your defense of your hope that is in you, is to be offered “to anyone who asks you.” He gives the reader a prerequisite for offering people a defense of your hope, and that prerequisite is an actual request from the party in view. In other words, we are to do apologetics when someone expresses an interest in knowing about our hope. The question we should then be asking is…

Why would someone ask about the Christian’s hope?

The earlier verses give us insight…

1 Peter 3:8-15 (ESV)
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For

“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 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 for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…

Do you see? The ones in view, the “anyone who asks you,” are asking because they detect that hope is in the one which they see suffering.

This leads to another question…

So, what kind of a person demonstrates hope in the midst of suffering?

Those who are filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit…

Acts 13:49-52 (ESV)
And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Only people who are joyful in the midst of suffering, are going to be asked as to why they still have hope. No one who openly agonizes or who complains while experiencing discomfort will be questioned about hope… Why?

Because, there’s no reason to.

The point that I’m trying to make is that our opportunities to do apologetics (according to Peter) stems from how we live. Do you have a desire to share your hope with people? Great… then exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (joy) in everything that you do, regardless of the circumstances that you find yourself in…

Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

The Joyless and The Joyful

Joyless people do not exhibit hope. They do not attract questions regarding their assured anticipation of obtaining eternal life because it’s masked behind their “joylessness.” The joyless person’s only contribution is to make the possibility of doing apologetics that much less probable. Being joyless crushes spirits and dries up the bones. It doesn’t encourage. It tears down, rather than bringing the potential for healing…

Proverbs 17:22 (ESV)
A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Psalm 51

Psalm 51 speaks to the very point that I am making. Here, the psalmist petitions God to reestablish joy within him, which is fueled by the recognition of the salvation he now possesses. As a result, possibilities for others to be saved will then emerge, returning sinners to God…

Psalms 51:12-13 (ESV)
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
THEN I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.

When we (Christians) are joyful in the midst of problems, curiosity about our oddly placed exuberance will then open the door for apologetics. We must be both joyful and prepared, to make that defense…

Godspeed, to the brethren!