The title of this post is taken from 1 Peter 3:15-16, which says, “But in your hearts set apart 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.”
A lot of Christians think about these verses in terms of giving your testimony, that is, sharing with someone how you came to saving faith in Jesus and the changes in your life since then. Don’t get me wrong; that is a very important first step, if you will. However, there’s much more to sharing your faith than giving your testimony. Sometimes the Lord brings people across our path that we have a chance to engage with about issues and big questions.
A pastor that I know (not mine) had such an opportunity a couple of years ago. He told about how he had been in a barber shop, waiting to get a haircut, when he overheard two other men talking about an important issue. It became obvious that neither one was a Christian, so he had an opportunity to share a Christian perspective. As this pastor was telling the story, my heart sank because I guessed what was coming next: he failed to share that perspective. The good news is that he realized later–and even somewhat in the moment–that he had failed. He succumbed to the fear of “offending” these other two men. However, more good news: he said that he would not fail the next time the Lord presented him with such an opportunity.
I couldn’t help thinking at the time of another story, this one involving a teacher that I know. He was attending a conference for ESL teachers, and one of the sessions he attended was about teaching argumentation in writing. The presenter, a teacher, shared how she had put students into groups to choose a topic from a list, discuss it, and then later write about it. Several groups chose to write against same-sex marriage, using the Bible as their primary, or in some cases only, support.
As the presenter spoke, the other teachers who were present, including my friend, chimed in with questions and comments. Some questioned whether the Bible was a legitimate source for students to use since:
- We supposedly don’t even know who wrote it;
- It supposedly says nothing against homosexuality;
- It supposedly condones slavery, stoning of children, and wife-beating.
In a matter-of-fact way, my friend refuted Number 2 by quoting Scripture (a self-proclaimed lesbian asked him to do so). Specifically, he quoted a portion of Romans 1:26-27, which she attentively listened to and didn’t argue with. He also refuted the last part of Number 3, noting that wife-beating comes from the Qur’an, not the Bible. (He didn’t have time to refute everything!) He also said that students should be allowed to use the Bible as a source, but that they should also have other sources; however, since same-sex marriage had been in existence for a mere five-six years at that time (and not in the U.S. yet), he said that it was a difficult topic to argue either for or against in terms of, for example, the effects it has on the children of homosexual couples. Given another three to four decades, it would be much easier to argue for or against it.
I tell this second story to give an example of what I Peter 3:15-16 tells us to do. If my friend had instead spoken about how he came to saving faith in Jesus, it would have been inappropriate; these people needed to hear the truth of God’s Word in response to their misconceptions about it. Note that in order to refute these misconceptions, my friend had to know the Bible. I hope that each of us who claims to be a Christian is regularly in the Word so that we can always be prepared to give an answer.