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Bearing witness to hope

April 7, 2023

Steven Elmore

Don’t you love it when you reread a Bible passage for the 10th, 20th, or even 100th time and you still learn something new that you missed the previous times?

Recently, I took a discipleship course at my church, and we read 1 Peter 3:15-16 as our weekly memory verse:

“…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…”

In my first several readings of this verse in my life, I placed the emphasis on “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone”. Later, as I read it more, I read it with an emphasis on “yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

I wonder how many of us focus solely on be ready to make an argument or only on be gentle? Truth or grace without the other?

This time however, I heard an emphasis on “to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (italics mine).

We are supposed to be grounded in the hope that we have in Christ. There is an assumption in this verse that the people who will ask us about our faith are not asking us for “the reason we don’t like a certain law or politician or celebrity” or “the reason we have anxiety about the state of the world” or “the reason we are angry about a recent news story” or the “reason for the despair we have over persecution.”

They are asking us the reason for the hope that is in us.

They might be asking us why they see us suffer yet keep hope. They may ask why they see us disagree with someone yet remain respectful and hopeful. They may ask us why something painful in our lives doesn’t lead us to despair in the same way as others. Why we lament but still maintain lives of joy and hope. Why we see opportunity and hope for the gospel in the midst of crises.

The implication in 1 Peter 3:15-16 is that our hope is a light to others in the darkness and that we should reflect this light the Spirit gives us so that others may see it and ask where it comes from.

Today is Good Friday. We normally don’t send out an email on Good Friday. We already have sent an email with an Easter message in it. But when I was meditating on Holy Week this morning, I felt compelled to write this.

Good Friday is the day we remember our Lord Jesus the Christ’s sacrifice to save us. We remember the accusations, the angry shouts, the taunts, the rejections, the fear of His disciples, and the painful drawn out suffering of our King.  Tomorrow, on Holy Saturday (also known as Black Saturday, the Great Sabbath, Glorious Saturday), we remember the darkness of the tomb. We faithfully lament what happened on these days as we place ourselves in the shoes of His disciples, who were hiding in their own darkness. Imagine their fear as everything they knew was challenged.

They expected a war with the world where their Messiah would overthrow the Romans and reign as king over Israel forever. Peter was ready and willing as he showed when he cut off the Roman soldier’s ear. Others were armed and ready. They had faith that he was the Messiah, and they knew the words of the prophets. And then He died. With His death, for the disciples, their future was no more. Suddenly, their king, their leader, their friend, was dead. Was He like so many of the false messiahs who came before Him? They saw the miracles, but… He died. Were they following Him for years for nothing? Their hopes were gone, and they were questioning everything, even though they had heard Jesus’ promises, from His own lips.

In remembering their despair, we should reflect on our own. Have we fled? Have we lost hope? Do the ways of the world, our flesh, or the Devil discourage us into living in a perpetual Good Friday and Holy Saturday? Do those around us, rather than asking the reason for the hope that is in us, instead avoid feeling the brunt of the despair and anger that is in us? Do we respond to the news of the world around us with proper lament, faith, hope, and joy, seeing opportunities for the gospel and the Kingdom of God or do we only see a crisis and flee from the suffering of the cross or the joy of the resurrection?

Stan Mattson, founder of the C.S. Lewis Foundation, wrote me an email a couple of days ago. He was woken from sleep with Hebrews chapter 11 on his mind. It is a passage that emphasizes the faith of the prominent figures of the Hebrew scriptures, repeating again and again the phrase “by faith.” Those who live “by faith” are contrasted with “those who shrink back” (Hebrews 10:29). We are also told in this passage that the definition of faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (11:1-3). We are told of those who received rewards for their faith and suffering while they lived but also about those who suffered and did not receive “what was promised.” Yet victorious on earth or not, all of them held faith and hope in God’s promises.

Let us today and tomorrow remember the darkness. Let us lament the suffering and the evils of our flesh, the world, and the enemy.

But let us also be at peace with courage, without anxiety, without fear, without despair, as we hope for God’s promises and work “will be done on this earth as it is in Heaven.” Let us hold onto our “assurance of things hoped for.”

He has risen! Let us reflect the truth and light of Easter in our daily lives so that people may ask us the reason for our hope.

The featured image, “Tattered Pages” is courtesy of Lancia E. Smith and is used with her glad permission for Cultivating. 


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