Do you have a standard answer for a specific situation? Is there a go-to reply whenever you’re in a familiar set of circumstances?
For instance, you and a buddy may have the same greeting you’ve used for years. Maybe there is a special way of saying good-bye to your spouse when one of you is leaving the house. When I get the customary “How you doin’?” on the walk into work in the morning, my standard reply is, “So far, so good.” (Eventually, though, I have to open my e-mail.)
Just as we try to learn the social conventions for various environments (for instance, my kids know not to greet their grandparents with, “What up, peeps?”), we are challenged in the Bible to have a meaningful answer if we are asked about our faith.
Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.
1 Peter 3:15 NLT
This challenge is presented by many pastors and teachers of the Bible, as something we need to be ready for. If we have listened to messages from the Bible for a while, or read the Bible a lot on our own, we’re likely to encounter this verse.
I don’t know about you, though, but I sometimes find myself at a loss for specifics: Is there a particular thing I’m supposed to say? Do I need to learn apologetics (the study of logical reasoning for one’s belief), or take a course? Where do I find the wisest reply for others’ challenging questions about my faith? Did God write down the answers somewhere that everyone is supposed to memorize?
When asked about faith, I don’t think that there is a standard answer that everyone should give. There are probably some wrong answers (for instance, “I dunno” isn’t very compelling, and “Because my parents / spouse / kids make me to go to church” isn’t a statement about our own faith). However, there are also many right answers.
First, consider the questions that we could reasonably be asked. While we may not be asked any of these word-for-word, they provide a starting point for what we might say in response to similar questions. For instance:
- What do you believe?
- Where do you go to church? or Why do you go to church?
- What do you think about < current event > or < social issue > ?
- Why do you (or don’t you) engage in < habit or activity > ?
Secondly, consider the facts. Take a moment to come up with the answers to questions like the following:
- What are the most important things to you about what you believe?
- What is the purpose for people – individually and collectively?
- Why aren’t things ideal, and what needs to be done to fix them?
- Where did everything come from?
- What happens when people die?
- Why do you believe what you believe?
- Is it because someone you trust said that it was true, because of your own experiences, or because you have made a choice for other reasons? (Many people will probably find that their beliefs are based on a combination of reasons like this.)
- What difference does what you believe make in your life?
- In your actions?
- In how you see yourself?
- In how you see (and treat) others?
- Whose teachings do you follow, or give precedence to when you receive conflicting information?
- The Bible?
- The teachings of Jesus Christ?
- A particular teacher or preacher?
- A creed or catechism?
- A specific author or school?
To find these answers, you may need to look both within your own heart (your memory, your experiences, your convictions) and outside of yourself (studying subjects where you have questions or seek more information). Here are some specific suggestions:
- Think about it. For answers to the questions, above, I strongly encourage you to sit down and really think about what is important to you. Ask God for His help, over the course of several days.
- Read God’s Word…a lot! Without a foundation of truth, our own hearts and minds may steer us astray, or we can be pulled away by others. Not only does the Bible contain good answers to questions we may be asked (those of an objective nature, rather than those from our own experience), but it can guide us towards experiences that will cultivate a deeper conviction…as well as the ability to be more loving in our answers.
- Read some good books, videos, or podcasts on this subject. You may have a trusted friend, pastor, or mentor who can suggest some authors who are a good fit for your current situation, but here are a few books that I’ve appreciated:
For further thoughts, see part 2 of this series.
- You’re a What?
- Help My Unbelief
- Do You Read the Bible, or Study It?
- Jesus is Lord,…but what does that mean?
- “Get Your Own Tape”, Part 1
- Looking in the Wrong Direction, Part 1
- Don’t Take My Word for It – Look Around You
(* In your translation of the Bible, you might find this point as part of verse 15. Remember, the message of the Bible was inspired by God, but the divisions into chapters and verses were just a convenience added for reference purposes long afterwards.)