“…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…” (ESV – Read the chapter)
This is perhaps the chief theme verse for the discipline of apologetics. Apologetics is, of course, the discipline of making arguments in defense of the Christian faith. Much has been written about this verse. Let me make three observations here.
First, the context of what Peter says here is suffering for the sake of righteousness. When we bear suffering and persecution stemming from our sticking faithfully to the character of Christ and continue to act out of that character in spite of the abuse, we are going to attract attention. We are going to have people asking us why we would do that. This is part of the purpose of our call to bear suffering with grace and patience. It confounds the world. When we can then offer them a clear reason for it, our reasoning plus our example will together make for a compelling argument in favor of our faith.
Second, if we are to do this, it’s going to take being prepared for it. This means learning the reasons why someone would want to commit to the faith. This takes work. It takes effort and study to learn the many reasons why the Christian worldview is the most reasonable there is. This may seem like a burden on top of everything else we have to do. But, consider the alternative. Is it better to invest this effort for the bolstering of our own faith and the encouragement of the faith in other people, or to hold the faith without understanding why we do so? Such an ignorant faith is weak and will melt before sufficiently severe challenges. It is happening at our college and universities among our young people every single day. This is not a place we want to be or to leave others in whom we love.
Third, how we do this matters. I’ve seen “evangelists” walk around in public places shouting at people about how evil they are. These have convinced many more people to stay away from the Christian faith than to embrace it. Peter reminds us here to share our faith with gentleness and respect. If our presentation does not match our example, it will not be compelling to anyone except to drive them away.
We must be prepared to share our faith all the time, but the way we do it matters.