3 Ways to Answer with “Gentleness and Respect”
1 Peter 3:15 is often noted as the basis for defending the Christian worldview. However, Peter immediately follows this verse with revealing words about the way we defend our faith. The text of verses 15-16 read:
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, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
This passage presents three ways we can defend what we believe that will better enhance our spiritual impact.
First, defend the faith with gentleness.
What does it mean to be gentle? The idea is the opposite of violence or anger. We are challenged to answer objections without becoming offensive with our speech or actions.
This teaching stands in strong contrast with many of today’s media voices and the negative comments found in most social media. Instead of offering hope and help to those who need it, believers are sometimes known for their mistreatment of other people. As much as we can personally work to remedy this stereotype, we are called to stand for our convictions with gentleness.
Second, defend the faith with respect.
When we respect another person, we treat them with dignity. There is no need to put another person down to defend what we believe or to lift ourselves up. Even if the other person is offensive to us with their words or accusations, it does not mean we must retaliate in a similar manner.
Romans 12:17-18 notes, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” As much as we are able, we are called to show respect and live at peace with others.
Third, defend the faith with a clear conscience.
Peter also notes the need to keep a “clear conscience.” In other words, our lives must reflect our message. We cannot effectively tell others to be honest with one another if we are known as liars. We will remain ineffective speaking against the prevalence of divorce in our culture if our own marriages do not honor God.
A clear conscience serves as the foundation for our spoken words. It has been said people hear what we say, but they believe what we do. To truly succeed in defending our biblical beliefs, our lives must reflect the message we share.
Peter also ends with a strong conclusion on this matter: “…so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” If we live out what we believe, those who mock us may become ashamed of their slander.
Why is this important? This is not about shaming people, but about God convicting unbelievers of their need to follow Christ. When our walk and talk are consistent, it convicts unbelievers to consider the good news of Jesus for themselves.
We are called to both share the gospel and to live it. When we do, this force serves as a powerful combination to draw people to the Lord and help us defend what we believe.