Over Christmas break 2011, we traveled to Prague, and then on the way home, through Nuremberg, Germany. The Nuremberg exhibit was absolutely incredible. Apparently the exhibit just opened (unbeknownst to us when we traveled there) on Nov. 22nd of this year. The girls were really moved by it. It is a very lengthy audio guide exhibit. But even so, they remained engaged through the majority of it. Every entry in the audio guide is intriguing. Even Halle and Katie listened far longer than I would have imagined them capable. Plus, there was video on hand also that was used as exhibits in the trial, and I think they knew their limits. It was sobering and troubling. I had a great discussion with the girls that night about their impressions of the trials, and unwittingly that led to the history of the church, and that led to us discussing how 75% of Czech republic (according to Helena our tour guide the first day in Prague) is agnostic. She said it is “a practical matter.” They have seen the church only as abusive and they want nothing to do with it. (The remaining 25% of the population is split-mostly catholic of course, some Protestant. Typically, those too are not evangelistic in nature. Traditionally in Catholic and Lutheran Protestant churches in Europe, faith is defined by a religion that is very legalistic in nature. It is a routine matter.) The girls and I talked about how this approach by the church has continued on many levels for 100s of years. The Catholic church literally ruled with an iron fist for centuries. They were indeed the law and the church in one. In the 16th century, william Tyndale was the first to translate considerable parts of the Bible into English, for a public, lay leadership. In 1535 he was tried by the church for heresy and was strangled and burned at the stake for taking the word of God to the populace. For centuries Catholic Leadership imprisoned the Jewish population in ghettos all over Europe, exposing them to horrible living conditions, disease and isolation. Now, there’s an argument for separation of church and state. (we shan’t open that can of worms in this post).
The girls and I discussed how we are guilty of that today-burning people at the stake, not literally but emotionally and spiritually. How often do we ignore those in need, that kid in your class who is hard to get along with, the next door neighbor who needs a helping hand, someone in our life who needs something we have plenty of? And then we ended by dissecting 1 Peter 3:15. The first part (“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord,”) was the starting point. This is the foundational premise of this verse. Then I reminded the girls of different instances for each of them wherein they were distraught over some sin they had committed or something they had done wrong, and how their joy was restored after they had confessed that sin and asked for forgiveness. It is amazing to me how faithful God is with our experiences. Nothing is wasted on God. The girls had immediate recall to those vivid memories. And that connected to the middle part of that verse (“be prepared to give everyone who asks you the reason for the hope that you have”) I reminded them it is never enough for this hard hearted world we live in to tell them only part of the gospel, that Jesus died on the Cross for our sins and gave us eternal life as a gift. We live in a pretentious and Self-centered world who believe they have no need for a Savior. The key to breaking through that wall lies in our sharing our own personal experience, how that truth has impacted you personally; this is paramount in our message. We all have a story. We must be prepared to share it. Otherwise, it is the same rhetoric that the unbeliever has been listening to for 100’s of years just as the hammer fell. Finally, the last part of the verse, (“But do so with gentleness and respect.”) We may set apart Christ in our hearts as Lord, we may have a story to tell, but try delivering that information to someone in a spirit of anger, abuse, self-righteousness, or disrespect, and she will not hear a word you say.
The girls were intrigued and engaged. Yes, it is true, the very next morning I was refereeing a ridiculous disagreement between them, but that night in that moment, God gave us a relevant conversation that everyone was engaged in. And he provided the material effortlessly. It was something I will never forget. I hope they don’t either.