Pastoral Perspectives

Return of the Guardians

An article in the “TODAY” paper attracted my attention. It was a survey by the Institute of Policy Studies. The survey shows that most in Singapore feel there is religious harmony. Yet when I looked at the statistics given in the aspect of morality, the Muslims were rated better off than the Protestant Christians. I’m not sure how people who read the article might respond? For one, I’m concerned that our moral compass had gone astray.

This brings me to realize that the world is changing and it is not changing for the better. I was preparing for the children’s program for the camp retreat and I am glad that our theme is “Return of the Guardians”.  As I looked at 1 Peter 3:15 to work out the teaching of this verse to our children, I came to a surprise realization of how often we tend to misuse this verse. There are some good meaning evangelists who will tell you to always be ready to explain the Gospel. Then we have those in the apologetics ministries who will use this verse as a reference to be always ready to give a reason and there are still others who will always be prepared to explain to anyone why we live the Christian life the way we do.

To put into context, this verse is clearly about how believers should respond to persecution. The apostle Peter is not saying to “be ready” for a theological debate and going anywhere and anytime to defend Biblical Christianity. What Peter is showing us is to be courageous in the face of persecution and be ready to give the reason for our hope. Those who knows Greek tend to argue that the word used here means “defense or reason”, derived from “apologia”. In the New Testament, most of the time the use of the word “apologia” is in the context of persecution. So the greatest key to “be ready always” is to live a life that makes you ready for the Master’s use, ready to hear his voice, ready to proclaim his Word.

What is the reason for our hope? There are still those in closed countries where believers are shot or tortured to death in prison. Door to door evangelism means going from your neighbor’s door to the prison door and one less member in the church because it also means going back to heaven’s door. There is only one reason for our hope – Christ in us. (1 Timothy 1:15)  There are many ways to say it but that is the only answer. To be ready means to live a Spirit-filled life because the Spirit is the source for all answers that a believer gives when he stands on trial for his faith.

My concern is that churches today may be slowly losing what God has intended us to be – salt and light in transforming the culture. Instead, today the culture is pressing its values and morals on the church as in the times of Israel. (Judges 2:10 – 12) The cultural manifestations we are seeing today, like immorality of all kinds, homosexuals etc. are the results of a loss of knowledge of the doctrines of faith derived from the Bible. As a Church, we are given the privilege and responsibility to guard the truth and entrust it to our next generation.

Barna group in 2011 studied why young adults were leaving the Church and concluded that the problem arose from the inadequacy of preparing young Christians for life beyond youth group. This is exactly what happened in the days of Judges when the Israelites were easily seduced by various gods of the surrounding pagan nations because the “knew neither the LORD nor what He had done for Israel.” Our society is telling us that “debate” is bad because it produces winners and losers (true and false). So we are encouraged instead to “dialogue”, where no one is right and no one is wrong and every belief is affirmed as equally true. The catchword is “tolerance”. This has been redefined from treating respectfully an individual who holds a belief that is false to affirming as true a belief that is false.

Let’s not forget in the Bible that when the Apostle Paul encountered other “truths” in Athens, Corinth and Ephesus, he engaged the false ideas. Paul’s world was much the same like ours today. It was filled with humanly constructed idols. The Bible tells us that Paul reasoned, vigorously refuted and even arguing persuasively both in the synagogues and in the market place. We cannot afford to loose another generation. The Church’s calling is to teach the truth, defend the truth and help men and women live into the truth. Will TRUE WAY be the one!