"but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, 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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame." - 1 Peter 3:15-16
In the context that Pastor Matt has set for us through 1 Peter, the believers are being encouraged to remember who they were in Christ and how He had called them to live by grace in the midst of persecution. This was no easier for them than it would be for us. They were scared(v14). They were probably intimidated and anxious about speaking up for the gospel. And Peter knew that not only because he lived in the time and culture they did, but because this had been a personal struggle of his own(Read Matthew 26:69-75 and notice who it was that scared Peter). Fear is what precipitates our memory verses(14b). I find that overwhelmingly encouraging because I know that when I live in a way that honors Christ, I can become afraid of what men may do or say.
I find it amazing that in our moments of fear, God calls us to so much more in Christ. In the moments when we naturally shut down, he calls us to engage the world with the truth.
Foundationally, Jesus has to be Lord, according to 1 Peter 3:15. Peter contrasts being troubled with honoring Christ in your heart as Holy.
Set him up as the most valuable, and when He is your hope, He will give you opportunities to speak of Him. I was challenged by three specific things in these verses this month. Hopefully, these will encourage you to live out the gospel in your relationships.
To speak with boldness about the gospel requires belief.
Do I trust the truth that I say I believe? Do I trust His Word? Apologia is the Greek word for "defense", as in a court of law. If you are going to defend something, you have to know it and believe it. We all grow in our knowledge, whether it is through expertise and years at a career, or hours spent watching and reading about a sports team, or research into the best educational philosophies for our children. We grow in knowledge in the areas that we are invested in and believe matter. You and I can't defend our faith with the Word of God if we don't really know what we believe and why we believe it. We have to dig into and wrestle with the Word of God and study for ourselves. This is not the job of an expert "apologist". This is the job of the believer. And when we begin to have conversations about our faith, we are thrust into opportunities to study and learn the truth. Don’t be afraid to be honest about not knowing the answer, but go and find it!
To speak with boldness about the gospel requires perspective.
The persecution for these believers brought opportunities for their hope to be seen in moments of slander and hardship. It showed where their hope was, and it brought opportunities to share reasons for the hope that was in them. A Pastor in the Nuba Mountains says of the persecution his church faced, "Because of persecution, because of hatred, because of a lot of things against us, it made more Muslims open to hear and listen to the gospel." (Read v 18 and 2 Cor 5:18-21). This perspective comes through staying close to Jesus. It comes from His grace. We don’t speak the truth in love to the unsaved so that they will approve of us or our lives will be easier, but because we know that we have hope and there is so much more than what we can see. Conversely, if we stay quiet and safe and choose to not bring up the hope that we have, we are living as if practically we don’t believe it exists.
To speak with boldness about the gospel requires love.
Do we see those who are hurting us as lost ones in need of a savior? If we love those who hurt us, they cannot truly harm us in Christ. We were them, and the way that we respond to their questioning and criticism, even their slander, should reflect the love that God has shown them in Christ. Gentleness and respect are the fruit of the Spirit in response to people who don't know Jesus. When we speak of our faith, and we interact with our neighbors and co-workers, let’s make sure that we do it in a way that keeps our conscience clear(in line with the word of God).
When we are persecuted (not IF), let us be a church that is gentle, not angry, that is full of truth in grace, not fear, that has made Jesus our Lord and Master, not cowered and compromised at the hands of men.
Let’s not hide in safety within the walls of our homes and church, but let’s go out and engage with our neighbors and speak of our hope!