When I gave my life to God just over 12 years ago I was filled with excitement. I was amazed at what changes were happening in my life so quickly. My attitude, my language, my actions. They had all changed. This excitement brought about a joy in my life that was noticeable. Around that time I found a verse in 1 Peter 3:15 that stirred me up.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
And I was. I wanted to run and tell everyone about the hope that I had. I shared with anyone who asked. I prayed that people from everywhere would see a change in my life and ask what had happened. Those were some of the most exciting days of my coming to Christ.
I have been re-reading that section of Scripture lately and was a bit put off as I read the same verse in it’s overall context. The heading for this section of Scripture is listed as “Suffering for Doing Good.” Not such a feel good heading! As I read through the entire chapter that this verse is listed in I was reminded of a few things. Here’s the Scripture:
13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 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, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.
Even the best of our intentions can land us in some pretty hot water with people. Our actions and words can be misunderstood. Our intent in doing good can be misinterpreted by those around us as being self-serving. People won’t always get what we are doing and they will become critical. Overall I believe that can just be a fact of life. But when you are in the middle of “doing good” and being attacked because of it you don’t get filled up with lots of happy thoughts.
This past week I have been answering many emails that have come in due to the signs that we created to promote our Easter services. The signs are very simple – just a few words with an image of Jesus on both sides. The image was colorized to take on a bit of the look of a former presidential candidates sign. In doing this we have stirred up some controversy. People are confusing our intentions of communicating the message of true hope that comes from Jesus and Jesus alone. Instead some are reading into the sign as saying that President Obama is the messiah. Nothing could be further from the truth and that was not our intention at all.
My first reaction, honestly, was to blast the people. “Idiot! Are you serious? Do you see Obama’s likeness anywhere in this picture? That is JESUS and the word below his image is HOPE!” Let’s just say that I caught myself before replying to any of the emails in that manner. Instead I tried to communicate, as best I could, the message of hope that we were trying to convey with the signs. I realized my gut reaction was not going to do anything to win anyone over. It would neither speak of love or hope. It would only push people further away from the God that we represent. In responding with my initial thoughts I would have done an even greater disservice to God and to the reader of my reply.
Rather, I needed to convey the message of HOPE to each person who was found to be a critic. I wanted them to see a difference in a my reply. I wanted to attempt to clear up the confusion that they had and help show them that not only does Jesus bring hope but also compassion, joy, and patience. And that, my friends, is my prayer for each of you today and throughout this week. As you strive to convey a message of hope to others in your words, actions, and attitudes you will be misunderstood. People will not understand why you are doing what you are doing and they will become critical of you. Don’t give in to the temptation to blast them. Allow your response to them to be full of grace and mercy, love and compassion, joy and hope. May you be messengers of the greatest HOPE ever and may you not be fearful of being misunderstood.