“…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…”
(1Pe 3:15 ESV)
As a church, and as believers, we understand our mission. We’re called to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). But, as we look at the above passage, we can identify two mistakes that we often make when it comes to this task.
The first mistake is simply that we fail to share our faith. When we have opportunities to share the gospel or to teach a younger believer, we often fail to make use of that opportunity. Even when the chance to reach out falls into our lap, our tendency is to drop the ball.
We often do so out of fear. We assume that others will react negatively to what we have to share. And, for this reason, we keep our mouth shut.
Peter encourages us to always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks us for a reason for the hope that is in us. In other words, when people ask us about our faith, when they ask us why be believe the way we do, when they ask us why we live as we do, we should be prepared to share with them.
The word “defense” doesn’t imply that we’re to be defensive. It carries the sense of apologetics. It means that we’re to provide a positive testimony to the truth of the gospel.
So, again, we’re to make use of the opportunities that present themselves. We’re to be prepared to share with others as they see that we’re different and ask about it. We must not let these occasions pass us by.
The second mistake that we make when it comes to carrying out this call is that we come off as rude. Perhaps we are defensive or simply come off too strong. But the second principle for us is this: Don’t be a jerk.
Peter tells us make our defense or our testimony with gentleness and respect. And this is something we rarely see today. I often cringe, especially on social media, when believers are attempting to share their faith.
We often come across as argumentative. We come across as mean-spirited. We come across as insulting to those who believe differently than we do. And this only reinforces what much of society believes about us already, that we’re hateful and intolerant. The ones we’re trying to reach, then, shut down and no longer listen to us.
We’re often afraid that, if we’re too gentle or respectful, people will think we’re affirming their beliefs. While it’s true that we don’t want to encourage people to remain in their current belief system, we must realize that beating them up won’t make our faith seem all that appealing. We must simply present it as lovingly as possible and allow God’s Word and Spirit to work in their heart.
As the people of God, let us strive to carry out this calling he’s entrusted to us. But let’s also evaluate our methods and search our heart. Let’s ensure that, as we faithfully share the gospel, we don’t allow ourselves to get in the way.