When I was 16, I began working at a greenhouse. For years after that first year, the lady would continually have me come back and work for her. She must have been quite desperate for help because honestly I am one of the worst people to work in a greenhouse. To this day, if it’s not a hosta, I call a plant a “pretty flower” and I still kill the hard to die succulents. Clearly, I was not the most knowledgeable employee. A customer would show me a picture and ask what plant it was or question the care regime of a particular hanging basket. I’d smile and reply, “I dont know, but I can find out!” I’d hunt down my boss, relay the question, and come back with an answer. It was definitely not the most efficient way to answer questions, but eventually I would retain some memory and began to respond on my own to common challenges.
Any unknown question could be answered if I would only go seek out the answer. Likely, this and her grace for me, is why my boss continued to hire me back. I never said to a customer, “wow, that’s a hard question. I don’t know,” then tured away leaving them in the dark.
Yet, we so often do that as Christians. I did this. I avoided challenges to my faith like the plague. I was petrified of not knowing the perfect answer. I was afraid of looking like a fool, and worse, making God look like a fool. I thought I could never be wise or enlightened enough to stand against challenges to my faith. So I avoided them. I would shun any situation where a controversial topic would arise and remain quiet in moral and ethical debates. I was, in essence, leaving the customer without answers.
We Christians do this in the name of peace thinking ourselves as righteous. But we are actually burying our heads in the sand to the will of God.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.
1 Peter 3:15
If we are to take the Bible for what we as Christians claim it to be, the living, breathing Word of God, this isn’t merely a suggestion or a good idea for when we actually do know the answer to something. This is a command. If we are so bold as to claim Christianity, we must be equally as bold as to back it up. Claiming the Bible as truth and our lives as surrendered to him who made us is more than a “get out of jail free” card from hell we tuck in our back pocket saving for the day we die. It is a way of life: a commission from Jesus himself. It is to not only believe the Bible is sacred and true but also to live it and defend it.
You may not know all the answers. That is okay; I don’t know them either. And, frankly, there are some holy, eternal aspects of God that our finite minds cannot wrap around this side of heaven. But that is not an excuse. Just as my boss at the greenhouse had grace and patience with me as I asked her for the tenth time how much shade petunias could take, God will have grace with you as you read and reread the same passage trying to grasp the concept laid out before you. While I admittedly have not in depth studied many other religions, one thing stands out clearly to me about my God: he leaves evidence for answers and encourages us to seek them. I don’t think I could accurately quote all of the Bible verses where God challenges people to seek him out, and even if I did, the blog post would be so exhaustive that likely no one would finish reading it. So for evidence that this is God’s words not mine, I will simply quote Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” We may be presented with questions that we don’t know the answer to yet. The keyword here is yet. We can say to the person, “that is an excellent question. Let me do some research and get back with you as I don’t quite know the answer.” We must go back and answer them though not blow them off. I couldn’t leave a customer hanging; similarly, we cant leave inquisitions about the faith unanswered to the best of our ability and research.
Before I wrap this blogpost up, I need to finish the verse quoted above from 1 Peter 3:15 as I left the last half off. I did not do so because it is unimportant, rather because it is so important that it deserves a bit of commentary of its own.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
1 Peter 3:15-16
Just as not giving an answer to a customer would not only ward them off and make me lose my job, yelling at someone that they’re stupid for thinking they could not water their tomato plants and think they’d live would also make me lose my job. Peter was wise to add that answering the questions of skeptics and unbelievers must be done with gentleness and respect. I would guess he knew from experience as he was so rash while with Jesus as he blurted out whatever came to mind and started fights. As right as he felt in the moment, it didn’t produce anything lasting in others. Rather he turned them away with such an attitude.
We aren’t going to win any debates by forcing people to the right conclusion. Look at the crusades. People went to war in the name of christianity and all they did was murder and leave a sour taste in people’s mouth towards God. Jesus himself said that his kingdom is not of this world and his followers are to not fight like the world does for him. (John 18:36) We are to live differently. When people get upset in the face of truth, and they will, we need to live in a way that reflects truth. We are to live gently and humbly. We need to treat people with the same love and respect that Jesus treats them and us with. Our lives are to declare the gospel, not to contradict it. Remember, we are attempting to proclaim the goodness of God! How can we do that if there is no goodness in us?
In the next several blogposts, I hope to answer some hard questions placed against the faith. While I don’t know everything, I want to seek out the truth and declare it from the mountaintops, or at least on Failing Forward. I don’t believe there’s any question too hard to bring before God. While I have some of my own I hope to hold the truths of the Bible to, I would love to know any questions you might have! Comment them on this blog or contact me directly. If there is enough content with it, I will answer them in an entire blogpost! I am not ashamed of the gospel and I am ready to face a challenge.