By: Jojo Ruba
As Christian thinkers, one of our favourite verses is 1 Peter 3:15. We often cite it as proof that we have to give good reasons for what we believe. But that’s not exactly what the verse says. It tells us to “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.”
In other words, Christians should always be equipped to share the reasons for why we have hope.
Unfortunately, as we end 2012, hope seems a rare commodity in a world increasingly hostile to God. There are of course the atheists and agnostics who reject any idea of the supernatural. That number includes a 15-year-old student from a Christian school I met. Many of the reasons he gave for rejecting God were based on poorly researched videos and blogs from the Internet. Yet those reasons were enough to convince him and too many others to turn from away from God. Polls show only a quarter of teens and young adults go to a religious service in Canada and almost as many now identify themselves as skeptical of any religious claims—a number that continues to grow.
As atheists grew bolder, Christians were more marginalized in 2012. This past year saw legislative and political defeats that will have long-term repercussions on families and churches and pre-born children. Even Alberta’s premier campaigned on how Christians who refused to perform gay marriages or abortions weren’t just wrong but “frightening.” 2012 saw those of us who take God’s word seriously, become our political elite’s bogeymen.
Most heartbreaking of all is the reaction of many Christians to these changes. Our theology and our beliefs are ever more confused. Some respond to the growing hostility with more hostility, even to the point of holding signs that tell others who God hates. Some go to the other extreme, preaching such an inoffensive gospel that sin no longer has any consequence. In doing so, they forget that if there is no sin, there is no need for a saviour. Yet the headlines from the past year alone guarantee that humanity will still need someone to save us from ourselves in 2013.
It’s no wonder so many Christians eagerly await Christ’s return. They are resigned to the fate of the world and place all their hope in that God will take us away from all of our pain.
But 1 Peter 3:15 isn’t a verse about resignation. It assumes that whatever we face as Christians, we will always have reason to hope because God can still be trusted.
I think of Monica from Nigeria who watched her husband decapitated before her own throat was slashed by Muslim extremist. They were mad because she would not renounce her Christian faith. Monica survived that attack and speaks today about how only God can give her the power to forgive her attackers.
I think of Frank who came out of the closet to a Christian co-worker. Rather than affirming the gay lifestyle like most others would, that co-worker loved Frank enough to ask him if he really wanted to live as a gay man, to which Frank said no. At her suggestion, he went to a Christian ministry that helped him realize that his true identity wasn’t in his sexuality but in his Saviour. 
And I think of Nelba Marquez-Greene. Nelba found out that Ana, her six-year-old daughter, was one of the children killed by a madman at her elementary school. In her deepest sorrow, she penned these words on a Facebook page dedicated to her daughter:
Sweet Ana, I know our healing as a family will come only from our heavenly Father. I know this is your best Christmas yet- at home with our Lord and Saviour…My Christmas promise to you now is to continue to love the Lord with all my heart, mind and strength and to do whatever I can to make sure more kids can be safe…
God did not take away the pain each of these Christians faced but is helping them through that pain and then using it to accomplish greater good. Our hope is not just that Christ will come again but that He has already came; not just that He will reign in the future but that He reigns right now. Whatever circumstance we face, the reasons for trusting Christ don’t change: that manger was very real, that cross was truly bloodstained and that the tomb is still empty.
God doesn’t promise that the New Year will be better than the old or that it will be pain-free. What He’s proven year after year is that the message of the gospel can still withstand any opposition and transform any life today. It was Nelba’s own daughter, Ana, who confidently sang about this truth before she died. In a video posted on that same Facebook page, she sang an old Lutheran hymn that should remind us of our hope for this New Year, Come Thou Almighty King:
“Come, Thou Almighty King,
Help us Thy name to sing,
Help us to praise!
O’er all victorious,
Come and reign over us,
 http://www.persecution.tv/video?task=videodirectlink&id=941 accessed Dec. 29, 2012.
 http://exodusinternational.org/2009/02/franks-coming-out-story/ accessed Dec. 29, 2012.
 https://www.facebook.com/RememberingAna accessed Dec. 31, 2012.
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTnSbAC6UDM accessed on Dec. 27, 2012.