How to give an answer?
We live in a world where there are many beliefs and practices. In fact, we meet and relate with people from different faith backgrounds all the time. The title of a text-book on worldviews captures this reality: The Universe Next Door. As a follower of Christ we face questions when we share the gospel with others. This should not surprise us, but can be seen as an invitation to engage with the questioner’s worldview and life.
Peter, the fisherman-turned-apostle, penned these words in I Peter 3:15: “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 that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
The word ‘answer’ in this verse reads ‘apologia’ in the Greek New Testament, from where we get this discipline called ‘apologetics’ which really means to give a rational defence for the faith that we have. In other words, it is telling people why you believe what you believe.
Human beings are made in the image of God, who Himself graciously allows people to make an informed choice. In Isaiah 1:18, we read God telling the Israelites: “Come now, let us reason together”. It is almost like God is calling people to a conversation – where views can be exchanged.
Paul exhorts the Colossian church and us: “Let your conversation be full of grace, seasoned with salt so that you may know how to answer every one”. (Colossians 4: 6)
However, the response to a question need not always be a pat, formulaic reply - in fact, the response could be a counter-question. This is because questions come from different contexts, and one needs to understand the questioner, his / her hidden assumptions, meaning of words etc. This enables one to make a more apt response. Christian apologetics is therefore not just about 5 good answers to the top 5 questions. It includes raising critical questions to the questioner/ hearer, in order to help him/ her see more clearly.
Philip Yancey observes: “Very often Jesus too deflected the question back in Socratic style, pressing the seeker toward a crisis point. His answers cut to the heart of the question and to the hearts of his listeners”.
Let us follow the Master evangelist in engaging with our friends and family in deep, personal and meaningful ways.
Lord, free my heart and my lips to engage with people I meet today with the truth of the gospel.