The "What" and "How" of Hallowing Christ as Lord (especially in the presence of non-Christians)
We’ve come to the end of our study of 1 Peter 3:13-17 and are now ready to examine the practical dynamics of what God is calling us to do. Continue reading . . .
We’ve come to the end of our study of 1 Peter 3:13-17 and are now ready to examine the practical dynamics of what God is calling us to do. Here again is the text.
“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 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. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:13-17).
(1) What: We are always to be ready and prepared to make a defense or to give reasons that people can understand as to why we honor Christ alone as Lord.
Peter isn’t thinking of the scholarly apologist who has fifteen arguments ready at hand to counter every point made by an unbeliever. After all, the people to whom he originally wrote this had no access to books or the Internet and many, if not most, of them were largely illiterate!
Neither does he envision you standing in a court of law, accused of being a Christian, under pressure to present a defense of why you made the decision to follow Jesus. He has in view informal circumstances in the course of everyday life when unbelievers ask you about your religious convictions.
This verse does raise the question of whether or not you could provide an articulate explanation of the reasons why you believe in Christ, an explanation that non-Christians could understand. It’s one thing for you to give your testimony on Sunday morning in the presence of other Christians. There you can use all the Christian lingo you learned in Sunday School. But would people who’ve never read a Bible or attended a church be able to understand your defense of your hope?
What do you say when people ask you for reasons why you are a Christian? Do you say, “Well, that’s the way I was raised. My folks were Christians and I’ve always been in church, so it was pretty hard for me to escape and try anything else.” Do you say, “I don’t have any reasons. I just took a leap of faith into the dark and happened to land in the lap of Christianity.” Do you say, “Well, I’m a Christian because most of my friends are and I really like the sense of community and fun we have together.” Or, God forbid, do you say, “I’m a Christian because I’m an American!”
A couple of observations:
First, don’t ever think that you have to provide a perfectly constructed, cogent, and altogether persuasive answer to every question that comes your way. In the first place, no one can. In the second place, that’s not what Peter is asking you to do. He’s telling us always to be ready to tell others why Jesus as Lord is our hope and not someone or something else.
So let me ask you: Why do you believe in Jesus? Why do you hope in him?
It may be that you came to your Christian faith through intellectual reasoning. Perhaps you evaluated the various religions of the world and weighed their respective arguments and concluded that Christianity makes more sense than anything else.
Perhaps you were in the gutter, whether morally or physically or both and Jesus Christ delivered you and set you free from your addictions.
Perhaps you simply read the Gospels and were awestruck by the beauty of Jesus of Nazareth; you simply couldn’t deny or avoid the inherent truthfulness of his words.
Perhaps you spent time studying the historical and logical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Perhaps you were wallowing in guilt and shame and self-contempt and the forgiveness that God provides in Christ was so real and joyful and powerful that you can’t escape the clutches of his love.
Perhaps you looked closely at the Bible and found it to be such a beautiful and persuasive book that you felt yourself being irresistibly drawn to the person of Jesus Christ of whom it spoke.
Perhaps you were physically healed or delivered from a demonic power.
Or perhaps at this point all you can say is, “He changed my life forever! I could no more live without him as Lord than I can stay alive without breathing.”
Or perhaps you simply can’t give an answer at the moment and you need to take Peter’s exhortation seriously and spend some time with God asking him, “Why do I believe in you? Why do I rejoice in Christ as Lord?”
(2) How: We are to do it with gentleness and respect.
Perhaps you’ve heard about the advice an older, veteran preacher gave to his younger disciple: “When in doubt, shout!”
The idea is that if you are unsure of what you believe, elevate the decibel level of your speech to throw your opponent off-guard. Cover up your ignorance or your lack of conviction by speaking with even greater passion and noise.
Peter disagrees. Explain your hope in Christ as Lord with “gentleness” and “respect.” By “gentleness” he means the absence of arrogance and pride and the presence of humility and calmness. The word “respect” should probably be rendered “fear” and refers not so much to your attitude toward other people but your reverence of God.
Treat those who disagree with you with dignity. Don’t lash out at them or castigate them.
I don’t know if you face the same sort of challenges that our hypothetical “Debbie” faced at her place of employment. Your circumstances may differ greatly from hers. But wherever you may be and whoever may confront you, may God give you the grace and clarity and courage to honor Christ as holy in your hearts and to make him and his Lordship known to all.