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Why Christian?

By July 8, 2015 3 Comments

This fall I’m speaking at a conference called Why Christian? Christian blogger/author Rachel Held Evans and Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber are hosting and headlining this event in Minneapolis on September 18-20. They invited 10 women to come and speak and I am unbelievably excited and honored to be one of them

The line up is incredible, diverse, and full of creative leaders. I’m just as excited to hear my friends and colleagues as I am to give my talk. Yes, the speakers are all women. But no, this isn’t a women’s conference.  This is for men, women, and all people.

I’ve been thinking about the title of this conference for some time now – Why Christian? It’s an interesting question in an age when reports of shrinking churches anxiously pop up on our newsfeeds. I’m not exactly sure what I want to say in my talk yet but as I think about this question today, my mind goes to 1 peter 3:13-18, especially verse 15.

The NRSV translates verse 15 this way: “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.”

That language is a bit harsh, but I can hear the spirit of this verse in The Message translation that says: “Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.”

The JKK translation looks something like this: Be ready to speak up.  Tell anyone who is curious who asks. Share your hope with utmost respect.

With these three versions of this passage in my mind, a couple things strike me.

Be ready to speak up. For some of us this feels comfortable, but for others of us speaking up feels like a stretch for our personality. Speaking up is not reserved for the most polished orators among us, but it is for you and me, everyday people. We all have a voice and we are invited to speak up and testify about the workings of God in our life.

The call to speak up about the hope within us comes after someone has initiated curiosity. Curiosity is the catalyst for sharing our stories. Curiosity is like rich soil in a garden that produces an abundant harvest. Curiosity is compassionate connection and it restrains judgment.

Speak up and converse with the utmost respect for the person you are talking with. I value that The Message translation includes that one shouldn’t care just about the content of what one is saying, but also how someone is speaking up. The method and the message both matter. (Or as Marshal McLuhan once said, “The method is the message.”)

So what am I going to say at my talk at Why Christian? I’m not exactly sure yet, but I hope to speak up about the hope that I experience with the care, compassion, and respect of my listeners in mind. If you want to find out exactly how it all shapes up, you’ll have to come to Minneapolis to hear in person. I hope to see you there!

(Also, if you do come to the conference, my friends Pastor Marla Rotman and Pastor Tim Rotman have invited me to preach at the RCA church they serve Peace Church on the Sunday after the conference. Would love to see you at Peace!)


Jes Kast

The Reverend Jes Kast is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament and serves West End Collegiate Church as their Associate Pastor.


  • I wonder if the emphasis of the verse changes if Peter is in fact writing to a persecuted, suffering congregation. I read the verse and imagine someone about to be thrown to the dogs, not a polite coffee shop chat. It seems that the catalyst for Peter’s audience is confrontation and challenge, not curiosity. The former adds significant weight to the call and highlights how easy we have it, how difficult we make it, and how lax we’ve become. It makes “utmost respect” seem absurd.

    I don’t think any of that discounts the context you’re entering into and the application of the verse you’ve used. I’m sure it assumes polite, curious conversation, but pushes beyond that as well. I’m just hard-pressed to know why Christians in America aren’t suffering more, whether that’s good or bad, and what, if any, form it should take. I Peter is one of the reasons I struggle with that.

    • If the original audience of 1 Peter is indeed to a suffering congregation then it certainly changes how I have chosen to exegete this passage here. Good thoughts, Peter. I’m cautious when it comes to conversations about persecution because I think it is often misunderstood in a 2015 American context. With that said, I like how you challenge where the demand of action is on the text.

      I also don’t want to convey I’m suggesting polite, tempered conversation. I’m more suggesting curiosity to get to the harder conversations. Good thinking and compassionate connection. Curiosity that seeks to humanize the listener verses objectifying a listener.

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