One of the characteristics that should distinguish followers of Christ from those who don’t know Him is that we should be people of hope. This reality is at the core of our mission to share Christ with others. We do not merely offer an alternative religion, worldview, or philosophy. We offer hope to a world desperately longing for it.
This is often forgotten. Our mission is not only to share the message of God’s forgiveness and the offer of a relationship with Him, it’s also to share the hope that this relationship with God generates.
Perhaps no portion of Scripture better captures this than the words of Peter: “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 peter 3:15).
I’ve heard this verse taught dozens of times. I’ve read many commentaries explaining Peter’s message. I’ve even spoken on this text myself. In the majority of these treatments of 1 Peter 3:15, including my own, the emphasis has been misplaced.
The verse is usually taught this way: “As believers, we need to learn how to share our faith. We need to take training classes and workshops. We must learn strategic passages of Scripture that can succinctly explain the message of the cross. We must do all of these things, because Peter commands us to be always ready to give an answer.”
And that is not wrong. We are called by Christ to take the message of the gospel to the farthest corners of the world. We are to share the message of His love and forgiveness. But this view of 1 Peter 3:15 is incomplete.
Peter is teaching us that there’s a catalyst in an evangelistic opportunity—a trigger. There’s something that sets the encounter in motion. And what is it? There’s no better trigger to launch an opportunity for sharing our faith than the presence of hope in our lives.
Taken as a whole, we find a progression that leads to effective outreach—and it requires more than the acquisition of Bible knowledge. What Peter says is that:
They will see hope in us and want it too. They will ask for the reason behind our hope. And we will be ready to give them an answer. Unless our lives are characterized by a true, living, confident hope, the distinctive is not seen—and no one ever asks.
We can learn all the verses and techniques. We can be trained in outreach strategy and theory. We can have a passion for the hearts and lives of people searching for truth. But without the evidence of hope in a hopeless world, we won’t show desperate people that we have something different from the despair they already know.
In Christ, we have real hope, not a naive attitude that fails to see the realities of life. At first, the people around us may think it strange—this inexplicable hope that marks our lives as different. But in a world starving for hope, men and women will be drawn to it and to the Christ whose resurrection makes hope possible. Hope and the resurrection are inextricably linked.