Always ready with an answer…

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Well, we’ve worked our way through Evolving in Monkey Town, just in time to mark the one year anniversary of its release. Thanks so much for your engagement and participation. Today’s excerpt comes from the final chapter, entitled “Living the Questions":

...I’m no longer ready to give an answer about everything. Sometimes I’m not ready because I feel that an answer does not do justice to the seriousness or complexity of the question. Sometimes I’m not ready to give an answer because I honestly don’t know what the best one is. Sometimes I’m not ready to give an answer because I can tell that the person asking doesn’t really want one anyway. 

Unfortunately, saying “I don’t know” has fallen out of vogue in Christian circles, and I’m still trying to get used to saying it myself. Opinionated and strong-willed, I’m always afraid that if I remain silent or show signs of ambivalence, people will assume that I can’t think for myself, that I haven’t studied an issue or thought it through. As my friends well know, I’ll tolerate a barrage of vicious insults before I’ll tolerate the mere suggestion that I might be uninformed. I would rather people think I don’t bathe enough than think I don’t read enough. 

In a way, the same has been true of the church of late. Sometimes Christians worry that if we don’t provide bullet-proof answers to all of life’s questions, people will assume that our faith is unreasonable. In reaction to very loud atheists like Richard Dawkins, we have become a bit too loud ourselves. Faith in Jesus has been recast as a position in a debate, not a way of life. 

But the truth is, I’ve found people to be much more receptive to the gospel when they know becoming a Christian doesn’t require becoming a know-it-all. Most of the people I’ve encountered are looking not for a religion to answer all their questions but for a community of faith in which they can feel safe asking them. 

When Peter first penned the words “always be ready with an answer,” he was writing to the persecuted church during the time of the emperor Nero…This was not advice for a debate team; it was advice for martyrs! Peter asked his readers to take courage, to look into the eyes of their assailants with patience and compassion, gentleness and respect. He urged them to live lives that are beyond reproach, to follow the teachings of Jesus and love their enemies to the point of death. This passage is not about fearlessly defending a set of propositions; it’s about fearlessly defending hope—a wild, bewitching, and reckless thing that cannot be systematized or proven or rationally explained. 

Peter knew that such behavior might arouse some curiosity. He knew that his fellow Christians would be subject to interrogation regarding their radical community and unconventional lives. In preparing them to give answers, Peter assumed they’d be asked questions. Our best answers in defense of Christianity have always been useless clanging cymbals unless our lives have inspired the world to ask. 

What are you not ready to give an answer about these days? What questions are you living through? 

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