Defending My Hope

When God decided I should emerge from my shadowy existence as a secret disciple, he must have had a plan, because he always does. Two sermons set me on the inevitable path to the Kirk Session (though they assure me that one blog – possibly even this one – will be enough to see me recalled). One, on the woman who had the issue of blood, convicted me that being healed is not enough, that we have to tell it abroad; and the second one, on the need for readiness to defend our hope in Christ. 

I have not shut up since. Compelled to defend the cause, or to share my hope, I have landed in all manner of trouble. At least part of the reason for that has been my own approach. 

In that, I am like the church as a whole. We love Christ, and in our zeal to share that with those around us, we sometimes forget that the messenger is much less apt to be shot if she considers the mode of delivery a little more carefully. 

Given that my chosen mission field was digital from the get-go, there were always going to be three principal difficulties. First of all, my audience is very mixed. On one hand there are the Christians who, for the most part, see what I’m doing and say little or nothing. Their silence may indicate approval, or the very opposite; I don’t know. On the other hand, there are the all-too-vocal unbelievers who wish I’d be quiet and keep my faith in fairy tales to myself. Secondly, online ministry of the sort I have embarked upon is lonely and prone to snap judgement from among the brethren. More traditional Christians think it folly to be engaging with atheists on social media, and some have made it clear that they see my dol a-mach as troublemaking. And thirdly, if you are using digital media for writing your views, people can misunderstand tone and intention. That’s why, I imagine, I have been variously accused of having a ‘Messiah complex’, being ‘bitter and cold’ and portraying myself as ‘the perfect, grieving widow who found God’.

You see the problem? It’s all too easy to lose people. If they dislike you, or your manner, or even just their idea of you, the psychological shutters come crashing down and you have no chance of reaching them. 

So, I have an image problem. There is an entire group of people – most of whom have never met me – entirely persuaded that I am a repellent Bible thumper, an unreasonable Sabbatarian and a smug, self-righteous hater. I must bear at least some of the responsibility for this because, without doubt, I have misrepresented my Saviour at times by being unloving and too swift to speak. If we look at any of Christ’s encounters with ordinary people in the Bible, or with leaders, for that matter, there are precious few words from him. 

We, on the other hand, seek to show him forth by jabbering endlessly. Fill the silence at all costs – isn’t that how we roll? Unfortunately, my heart is not fathomless, like the Lord’s: it is mean and brittle, and goes out only to those who are easy to love, and so much of what I think, say and write is devoid of the costly perfume that Christ pours out on me without measure. I set out to share his boundless grace, but end by keeping it meanly to myself and spilling out judgement and condemnation.

Or, at least, that’s how it seems to people who are only seeing me. There is too little of Christ in the way that I deal with unbelievers and I have, consequently, forced them to see him through the prism of me, rather than the other way around.  To say that I have misrepresented him is the understatement of the century. 

The endless words from me have been an attempt to fill the void that ought to be filled up with Christlikeness. I have to speak and write and speak some more so that the avalanche of words will persuade people that I am a Christian, and that he has begun a good work in me. Of course I believe that he has, but I shouldn’t have to say it: my life ought to be sufficient witness.

I could stand silent in the presence of doubters, as my Lord did, if I was able to reflect him back at them. For a long time, I thought I was doing that with this blog, but I am increasingly aware of speaking into darkness and being answered with silence and hardness of heart.

I think, perhaps, for a little while, it may be wise to sanctify God in my heart and ready myself to give the defence of the reason for my unquenchable hope, but only when it’s asked for. When people ask, you know that they have seen something in you without having to be told.

I have never – not once – been asked for that defence.

One thought on “Defending My Hope

  1. Just picking up on this 1st June post.
    I am an occasional reader – I keep meaning to subscribe for a regular injection of wit, good sense and encouragement – and I am guilty of being one of your ‘silent’ Christian readers….
    Just to say your posts are inspiring: flowing as they often do from the mundane and common place, they hallow that ground and gift it with Divine significance. I should have said ‘Thank you’ long ago! I keep trying to get going on a blog of my own but, for many of the reasons you outline, I haven’t quite garnered the courage to make the start. I sense it can be a lonely and unforgiving place. Even more reason that the writer’s courage deserves to be acknowledged, encouraged and supported.
    After nearly 40 years on Shetland, alas we are departing to less windy climes. Our six children, all appreciative of their Island up-bringing, have made their nests on the mainland. I had not expected grandchildren to be such a lure.
    My intended two week trip to these Boannie Isles in 1982 was redefined when God, speaking through many Christians from several denominations, got a hold of me. Within six weeks of arrival I was baptised in a refreshingly cold sea on the small island of Papa Stour and the adventure began….
    I have not been a good islander. Initially, blinded by the arrogance and presumptions of an incomer, I failed to lay hold of the genius of the place. Too imperceptibly, my community gradually became the safe and cloistered ‘walls’ of the local church instead of the rough and tumble and many-hued life of my island neighbours.
    Now, as we prepare to sell our house of many years, our goods and chattels largely far away, I have made peace with my ‘mistakes’ and enjoy a surprising and unexpected rapport with my neighbours, a welcome warmth and familiarity. I know that despite the fences, we have fought many battles together.
    If you are stepping back a little from defending your hope, please do it carelessly; I believe that light – real light, light to navigate home by – radiates forth from your blog far more than you may realise!
    Thank you!


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