Tumbling in the Sand
Texts for Sunday, May 29, 2011: Acts 17:22-31, Psalm 66:8-20, 1 Peter 3:13-22, John 14:15-21.
“Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” – 1Peter 3:15b-16a
I’ve been thinking about evangelism a good bit these days. That’s probably why this piece of 1Peter stuck out to me. It also stuck out to me because so rarely have I ever experienced another Christian telling me about their faith in a way that I could describe as gentle and reverent. Or, for that matter, could I describe it as hope-filled. My experience of being evangelized is more often getting a tract or being confronted by some over-zealous person. Both the tract and the “evangelizer” often start out by telling me that I’m a horrible sinner before God and that I’m going to burn in hell if I don’t accept Jesus as my personal Lord and savior. This line of evangelizing hardly feels like good news and it seems primarily about fear, aggressiveness, and an assumption that God is not already at work in my life. With this form of “sharing our faith with others” being the dominant form of evangelism in this country, it’s little wonder so many of us are reluctant to even mention that we are Christian, let alone talk about the hope that is within us. Yet, such evangelism doesn’t seem overly in-line with what Peter seems to think evangelism should be about. Rather, Peter seems to think that our hope, our expectation in God, should be so defining of our lives that people start to ask us about why we’re so different. And then, we get to tell them about God’s love at work in our lives (and maybe about how Jesus is a part of that)—with the assumption that God’s love is active in their lives too (that might just be the reverence part…)—and maybe ask them about how God is alive to them as well.
I guess the question is, how do we get that kind of hope? Well, I would answer that question: we can’t. Nothing we do, no work of our own gives us hope. Rather, it is God at work in us that causes hope to well up and spill out in our lives. God at work: bringing us a new day, washing us clean in our baptism, giving us community, being incarnated in our midst, whispering in our ears even when we don’t listen, kissing our cheeks with the sun, feeding us at the table, coaxing us and revealing God’s promises again and again in millions of little ways, filling the whole world with holiness. That’s how we grow in hope. It’s not what we do, it’s what God does and all we have left to do is revel and rejoice in it!