“ But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15
Are you ready to answer that question? Why do you put your hope in Jesus? Why are you a Christian? The Bible tells us to be ready to share our answer with anyone who asks us. 1 Peter is addressed to the scattered church, which is… all of us. Not just those blessed with skill for evangelism; not just pastors and priests; not just long-time Christians or those whom we think are better equipped. So, why are you a Christian?
Do you understand the question? Don’t talk about how you were invited to a church and met someone or heard a great sermon. Don’t talk about your first small group session or weekend retreat. All that says is that you were brainwashed. You probably could have walked into a synagogue or a mosque or been visited by Jehovah’s Witnesses and been convinced to join their churches at that point of your life.
Don’t talk about your near-death experience or long battle with a disease or how you found yourself destitute on the streets with an addiction. That says you negotiated your way into Christianity and feel obligated.
Don’t tell me that you were raised in a Godly household with devout parents and have known God all your life. That just says you are afraid of disappointing your mother and can’t make a decision on your own.
Let me clarify the question: Why are you still a Christian today? Look at your life now. Are you not an independent adult? Are you now healthy and free of past addiction? Why are you still a member of a Christian church? Do you still believe in Jesus Christ? Do you still believe in the resurrection and our salvation? Why?
When I was young, my mother would occasionally question why I was doing something that didn't quite make sense to her. She would never say, "Stop doing that!" She would ask why I thought it was a good idea. If I couldn't explain it quickly and sensibly, she would just tilt her head quizzically and I would wonder if maybe it wasn't something worth pursuing. Sometimes, I could come back later with a better explanation, but she would act as if she was no longer interested.
When someone comes to us with questions about our faith, we need to be prepared to clearly explain our hope. This does not mean quoting the Bible, but how it works for us. Our hope is what we believe waits ahead of us; not what happened in the past. Don't inadvertently infer that the inquirer needs to wait for God to tap him on the shoulder during a crisis or low point. Don't make him think he has to wait to be invited to the club. While it is true that only God will ultimately turn his heart, we should encourage everyone to pursue a closer place. A teacher may occasionally call on the quiet child in the back, but it is more likely that she will select a child up front waving his hand.
So are you ready to answer the question? Well hold that thought!
Are we sure about what the question is? The last time someone asked me why I was a Christian was in the middle of a charged conversation about unscrupulous pastors and abusive priests. The tone with which it was said belied the underlying thought. What he really asked was, “How can you associate with people like that?” Simply defending my Christianity would have been construed to mean that I was ignoring or condoning inappropriate behavior.
Sometimes this simple question of our faith is actually the set-up for a fight about Christian values in the hot topics of today. "Why are you a Christian?" asked in a threatening tone in the midst of a pro-choice rally is probably soliciting a debate on that topic. If a fellow church-goer asks the question at a coffee event, it may indicate a crisis in her life. The question may be asked a different way, such as "How can you believe this..." or "Why do you Christians say that..."
So we may need to clarify the question with a question. "Why do you ask?" or "What's on your mind?" That may be enough to open the speaker up to the real topic or agenda. My favorite is, "Why aren't you a Christian?" If there is a specific concern, the reply will likely start with "I can't buy into a religion that..." and now the true topic is revealed.
I know! Answering questions with questions is evasive. It may even seem like a copout. But if we understand the underlying concerns first, we can work our way to a moment when our faith statement will have an impact. Our goal is to promote Christ. By talking through the religious inferences or false assumptions that initially motivated the questioner, we can push them aside and get the topic back to our hope.
"So, you want to know why I am a Christian." Statement, not a question.
Conversations like these are not preaching moments; they are evangelizing moments. We are all charged by God to spread the faith. We need to be ready when the opportunity arrives.
So what is your explanation?