How to be Unapologetic in 2019
If there’s one thing social media has influenced, it’s the rise of thematic, self-help resolutions. Pick an area of life you want to improve, and there’s a group (or app) for that. Supporting your physical fitness, mental health, or spiritual awareness is only a click or tap away. Yet behind every goal is a motivation, and if the first few weeks of 2019 are any indicator, this year’s buzzword seems to be “unapologetic.”
This isn’t a new mantra, but its scope appears to be widening. Be who you are in every aspect of life, we’re told. Let the past be, take care of yourself, and never apologize for living out who you are. This seems to include both being sorry about and offering an explanation for how one acts, dresses, and lives. There appear to be as many iterations of this sentiment as there are social media users, but one popular sentiment advises, “Never explain yourself to anyone. The people who like you don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it. You don’t need anyone’s approval.”
There is an inherent desire in all humans to be fully known and completely accepted. Our culture, it seems, is beginning to realize that another human being cannot possibly give this type of unconditional love—therefore, we decide, the only one who can give the gift we inherently crave is ourselves. Self-love, self-help, and self-improvement alter our view of ourselves. We don’t need another human to love us, so we become our own divinity full of self-directed, unconditional acceptance. No clarification is necessary because we are not parts in a whole, dependent on others to fill our needs, but whole in ourselves.
We stand in front of the mirror and speak benedictions of our self-worth. We create new sacraments of ceremonial washing to remove everything from last night’s makeup to the dirt beneath our perfect manicures. A world without explanation revolves around a star of subjectivity. Everyone’s gravitational field works a little differently, we’re told, and that’s ok. Your life doesn’t and shouldn’t look like anyone else’s. If you find someone whose “sun”(or worldview, the sum total of their thoughts on humanity to ethics and everything in between) burns in roughly the same ways as yours, or at least in complementary ways, you’ve found your “squad” or “tribe,” as they like to say. Your lives will orbit in the same way, your paths will cross, and there you will find harmony if not salvation. Their acceptance still isn’t needed, but their companionship is a gift to be treasured. Find those who require no explanation and love them fiercely because of their blind faith in you.
Yet while the world encourages us to live without explanation, the cross reminds us that we are to always be ready to give an apologia, that is, a defense, a reason.
Christianity, by its very nature, cannot accept the absence of explanation. To explain something means to clarify why it is what it is. What else is the entire story of salvation as revealed in Scripture but the revelation of God Incarnate in every Word? Christ is not a part of God’s revelation or an aspect of His explanation, but He Himself is the great Epiphany, the unveiling of the face of God Himself.
And yet so often, we as Christians fall into the trap of living without explanation. Apologetics, or defending the faith via the means of clarification, positive evidences, and refutation, is ignored or downright scorned. We don’t need to explain anything. In fact, we shouldn’t explain anything, the thinking goes, because you can’t argue someone into the Kingdom of God. We accept the idea that apologetics is a slap in the face to salvation by grace alone apart from works (Eph. 2:8-9) instead of rejoicing in the fact that defending the faith is a work which God prepared for us to do and delights to give us (Eph. 2:10).
Or perhaps we think that apologetics is all well and good—so long as it stays in its place. At the time of this writing, I could tell you at least three unique openings I had in the past week that would make any apologist weep for joy. They were moments in conversations that could have very simply and unaffectedly been turned towards clarifying the good news of Christ Jesus who lived, died, and rose again for our salvation. I fouled up every single one of those openings. If one constantly and consistently fails at the apologetical task, what good is it? Maybe we’d best leave this to the professionals (whoever they are) and focus our attentions elsewhere.
Christianity, however, is not a blind faith in an unexamined concept. No human can create his own faith or work salvation in anyone else. Our faith is founded solely on the Son of God and His literal, historical resurrection of the dead. We are not called to convert, bully, or ignore our dying brothers and sisters. We are, by the power of the Holy Spirit, called to defend in a world at war.
At the heart of apologetics is love, because Christ—and only Christ—is the Sun which radiates and gives life eternal. Defending the faith is a calling from God who both begins the work and completes it (Phil. 1:6), and this vocation is given to every Christian. The call to clarify, provide positive evidences, and lovingly refute contrary claims goes out from the lips of Wisdom to every Christian in his or her own unique mission field. 1 Peter 3:15 applies to all believers whether we are in the public square or the living room, the ends of the earth or under our own roof.
Our vocation as apologists is not to win the argument, browbeat the skeptic, or embarrass the unbeliever. It isn’t a job given only to debaters, professors, or those whose charisma outweighs their social awkwardness. Being an unapologetic denizen of Earth in 2019, according to culture, is not something you do. It’s something you are. It’s a lifestyle, not an action. Ironically, the same can be said of being an apologetic Christian in today’s world. We are called to be unapologetically apologetic—living a lifestyle focused solely on Christ crucified and raised from the dead.
And, like the majority of New Year’s resolutions, we will fail, oftentimes spectacularly, while living this unapologetically apologetic lifestyle. We will miss opportunities and we will do the very things we don’t want to do (Rom. 7:15). But when God looks at us, clothed in the righteousness of Christ won for us on the cross and sealed at the empty tomb, He sees nothing but the perfection of His Son. Because He lives, we also will live, and it is this fact which we are called, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to unapologetically defend.