Recently, I was reminded that Christian leaders encouraging believers to share their faith often cite 1 Peter 3:15, which reads, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” [NIV] The context of the presentation is usually an effort to persuade believers to ask a clever question, which will turn the conversation in a spiritual direction.
However, the Scriptural context is always being ready, when someone, usually an unbeliever, asks the believer about his hope. Do people ask YOU about your hope? Why or why not? The sense of the Scriptural passage is that the hope must be visible or no one would be inclined to ask.
How does hope become visible? 2 Corinthians 6:17 echoes the same thought, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.” [NIV] Being separate indicates visibility; hope clearly means visibility in a positive, attractive, and encouraging way.
But today, many in the body of Christian believers are largely invisible—lost in the crowded background culture. We look like everyone else. We dress like everyone else, within limits of modesty. We talk like everyone else, but usually choose to avoid profanity. We socialize like everyone else, but avoid certain movies or particularly sinful places. However, what we don’t wear, don’t say, or places we choose not to go are negatives, which are essentially not visible. Yet, we are known as a people who aspire to live life on a higher plane. When the higher plane is not visible, the result is the common accusation that we are judgmental, narrow minded, dupes.
The vital question remains, “How are we to be separate and visible in a positive or desirable way?” Matthew 7:20 is a big help, “…by their fruit you will recognize them.” [NIV] What fruit? The fruit of godly character and the fruit of love, which is the fruit of the Spirit!
A previous blog demonstrated that love is spiritual energy and that ALL love comes from God. God’s infinite love passes through the prism of YOU and me, to the extent that it is not hindered by the interference of our pride, separating love into its components, which are humility, forgiveness, mercy, longsuffering, and a servant’s spirit. We grow and mature by actively and routinely choosing to be humble, forgiving, merciful, longsuffering, and being a servant to others. These are the actions that become visible in our culture, when we exhibit them as a lifestyle.
But there is more, much more. Our character and visibility grow as we encounter opportunities to be humble, forgiving, merciful, longsuffering, and a servant to others. Character growth allows us to experience one of God’s most incredible promises, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” [Galatians 5:22 NIV] All the time, during and in between character-building events, we are privileged to experience, express, and exhibit the pervasive overwhelming fruit of the Spirit.
Now, that’s positive, endearing visibility. The fruit of the Spirit creates a glow and spiritual allure unlike anything else. That’s when people will ask us about the hope that we have. That’s when YOU must, “Always be prepared to give an answer…” What do YOU think?