Always be prepared to have an answer (1 Peter 3:15)

This past week we looked at 1 Peter 3 at GCF. The following was the email text send out to GCF folks ahead of time (which was adapted from a Wine Before Breakfast email sent out in summer 2021).

I grew up in a tradition where having the right answer mattered. It was important not to let others live in ignorance if we had the answers or knew they were doing something wrong, even if they didn’t like what we had to say. I thought this was what Christians ought to do, a way to share the truth we had with others. 

It took me a long time to realize that this was a poor interpretation of the text. 1 Peter 3:15 highlights that we are not to go around telling people the right answer(s), but instead to wait until we are asked. This implies living in such a way that people will want to ask about our love and humility and why we repay evil with blessing (1 Peter 3:8-9). Assuming that people will be impressed by how we live, we are to be prepared to give people an answer. The text commands us to be prepared to give an answer, not to give an answer. It is as if the preparation is what matters most, as if the answer is more for us than for others.

The answer that we are to prepare is not the ‘this is how you ought to live your life’ kind of answer, but the sort of answer that shares what has happened in our lives so that we have hope. And then, just in case we’ve started leaning towards responding to others with an “I know how to fix your life so it will be better” answer, the text reminds us to give our answers with gentleness and respect.

Having the text challenge our assumptions is one of the things I love most about studying the Bible, especially in community. When I lead a study, I hope that we will all be challenged and am thankful that the Spirit can use the insights and experiences of all those present to challenge us, including myself. 

Not surprisingly, the study this week reminder that the word answer (or defense, depending on your translation of the Greek, “apologia) is necessarily a response to other’s curiosity or questions. It makes me wonder how I can live such a life that people might ask me about the hope I have, or how to give answers to ordinary questions that bear witness to how I sense the Spirit working in my life, even as this might make me uncomfortable.

– Brenda Kronemeijer-Heyink, Chaplain