by Tom Brennen
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Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15).
‘What on earth did you do that for?’ a colleague remarked upon hearing that I’d just returned from a weekend of trail running in the Victorian High Country. I had completed runs of 25 kilometres, 22 kilometres and 9 kilometres and a gentle run of 1.5 kilometres upriver to float back down on a pool ring. While it didn’t seem crazy to me, my answer (that it was a lot of fun) just didn’t seem to satisfy my colleague.
Today our verse asks us to give an accounting for the hope we have in Christ. Our response to this question is one of the more important responses we give. We must be ready to answer when asked, ‘Why on earth are you a Christian?’
As Australian society has changed, so too have the questions that Christians are asked. There are fewer questions asking how we could have hope in something we can’t see or arguing about not being able to use the scientific method to prove God exists. We are now more likely to be asked ‘How can you call yourself a Christian when Christian nations have colonised countries and abused populations?’, ‘How can you call yourself a Christian when the church has failed to protect children?’, ‘How can you call yourself a Christian when Christian politicians don’t support single mothers, drug addicts and those dealing with issues of gender identity?’ and so on.
The church and other Christian institutions have a chequered history and have failed time and time again. So too have we and other Christians as individuals, allowing our sinful nature to get in the way of living as God would have us do. This is precisely why our hope must not rest in the work of human beings or human institutions, for they cannot save us.
We are Christians first and foremost because we acknowledge Christ as the Son of God whose death and resurrection brought the healing of the relationship between humanity and God. This is the gospel in which we have hope. This gives us hope to sustain us in hard times. This gives us hope to sustain us when institutions and individuals in our lives fail us by failing to live up to the standards they profess. We do not place our hope in the things of this world but in Christ, our Lord.
What are Christians? Christians are convinced that our Lord loves us, saves and redeems us so that we may share his love with others during our time on earth and enjoy his company in heaven for eternity. This is the hope that cannot be taken from us, and this is the hope we must lovingly share with our world.
God, help us to answer those who want to know the cause of our faith and hope. May we speak with love and compassion so that the Spirit may move others to find their hope in you. Amen.