…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
I’ve heard this passage quoted as justification for using the Bible to verbally bludgeon someone into Christ’s Kingdom. Somehow, I don’t think this is what Peter’s referring to. The quoted portion is always, “always be prepared to make a defense,” and not the ‘how:’ with gentleness and respect. This seems to be another example of scripture being misused. The most important word here seems to be ‘hope,’ which is hard to demonstrate when sharing the Gospel without gentleness and respect.
On the other hand, we’re not to refrain or withdraw from sharing out of fear, either. This passage calls us to be ready to share anytime to anyone. Examples in situations where fear might have dominated, but didn’t, are Peter and John standing before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4) and Stephen sharing his message from the Spirit with the religious leadership in God-filled wisdom (Acts 6:8-7:60). While Peter and John declared their allegiance to Jesus by sharing their message rather than not, Stephen drew parallels between the priests’ denial of Jesus to the Exodus Hebrews and he died because of it. These are two courageous examples for us in our tumultuous times about sharing the Gospel message with others despite any fear.
What does the earthly future hold for us? I sure don’t know. This Earth is on a trajectory matching what we’ve read about: that the beginnings of this journey will include violence and natural disasters (Matthew 24:7-8). It will also include the suffering of the saints, yielding a revelation of true Kingdom followers as a falling away and betrayal happens (Matthew 24:9-10).
Considering what we’re seeing and hearing these days around the world, it’s not hard to see where these passages are being fulfilled. Now is the time for Kingdom courage to prevail in our sharing! Perhaps as you pray, ask the Lord to reveal someone to share with (friend or stranger) and the courage to be bold for the Kingdom out of a heart of love and respect.
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” – C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
By Rich Obrecht