Today’s reading was 1 Peter 3:15-17
15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Verse 15 really breaks down into three sections:
Be in this state (Christ as Lord)
Be willing to do this (give the reason for the hope that you have)
But do it in this way (gentleness and respect)
Let’s examine each of these.
Be in this state
To revere Christ as Lord (or “set apart Christ as Lord”) means that for those of us who call ourselves Christians, the Lordship of Christ must be evident. Lordship is a somewhat antiquated term, but the sense is that Christ is in control, he’s calling the shots, he’s in charge, and that when it comes down to it, we follow him rather than our own desires. He is on the throne – our job is to obey. One teacher put it this way: You know you are a Christian when you want to do one thing; Christ wants you to do another, and you do what he wants rather than what you want.
If Christ is not really Lord, then our witness is compromised. It reminds me of a comedy routine by Jim Gaffigan, where he talks about the incongruity of a fitness trainer who is out of shape: “You should work out. I don’t. My favorite machine is the vending machine. Want to go halfsies on a Snickers?”
It’s amusing because of the incongruity of a fitness trainer who is out of shape. It’s less amusing when it’s a Christian who is not living as one, whose obedience is partial or selective.
Be willing to do this
The result of a life sold out to Christ will be hope, a hope that is so compelling and so obvious that others will be provoked to ask about the source of it. What is this hope? For sure, a hope in heaven when we die, but also hope for today, hope to conquer sin, hope to live a life of meaning, hope to move through this world with love. A hope that whatever trials we are going through right now, that this is not the end of the story. A hope that assures us, however difficult it is, we have a Savior who is closer than a brother, who will never leave us or forsake us. Fear and anxiety need not rule us, because we have a God who knows our needs, and who is well able to supply them. He who cares for the sparrows and flowers of the fields will certainly not abandon us.
But do it in this way
When we have the opportunity to share the reason for this hope, we must do it with gentleness and respect. No one enjoys the hell-preaching, Bible-thumping evangelist who seems to relish the punishment of the wicked. Rather it is the one who pleads with tears in his eyes for us to turn away from our sin, who is likely to gain a hearing.
Those who are insecure, or new in the faith, can tend to be bombastic in their presentation of the gospel: “This is the way it is. Choose Christ or go to hell!” And while there is truth in this statement, the tone subverts it to the point of insignificance. We must not be brash, rude or arrogant. There is nothing superior about us who have responded to the call of Christ. When we share, it is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.
The opposite temptation for us is not to share at all, but somehow to be ashamed of the gospel. One of my friends (thanks Seán) yesterday posted a great quote from Spurgeon on this question:
I love that. And in the end, if we do speak with gentleness and respect, if we have a clear conscience, if Christ is Lord, then when people speak against us, the shame will be theirs for slandering someone so clearly good and well-meaning. It would be like speaking ill of Mother Teresa… there’s something just not right about that.
And though we will not always get a hearing; though we will sometimes be met with a harsh or uninterested response, “it is better to suffer for doing good” than to be silent.
May God give you boldness and sensitivity today and provide you opportunities to speak of his grace in your life… with gentleness and respect.