15 “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,” (I Peter 3:15).
The specific ways we fulfill Peter’s instructions about sharing the gospel to those who ask us for the hope and confidence we have in the gospel is clear. Peter gives us two qualifications when we answer people’s questions about the gospel.
First, we are to give an answer with gentleness. Gentleness (πραΰτης; prautes) refers to meekness and humility. This is in contrast to being harsh in our dealings with people.
Second, we are to also give an answer with respect (φόβος; phobos). This means we treat the person, or persons, in question with an attitude of admiration, esteem and even reverence.
God never calls us to answer people’s questions concerning the gospel with sarcasm or arrogance. Thus far, we are approaching this subject with a perspective that the people asking the questions are doing so with a sincere interest in our biblical answers. However, even if they aren’t we are to be humble and respectful to them. Peter will have more to say about this in the verses to follow.
I remember one student I had years ago who would ask questions it seemed for the expressed purpose of trying to trip me up in my biblical answers. It could be somewhat frustrating because while I sought to be gentle and respectful, I detected no such attitude from him. Neither it seemed did others in the classroom.
Gentleness and respect are to be what we display even when Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons come to our front door. God does not call us to be harsh with them, but rather to be prepared to give an answer to them with humility and good will. We possess the good news of salvation. They don’t!
Pastor Burk Parson explains that, “God calls us to be ready to make a defense for the hope that is within us, but notice that He calls us to do it with gentleness and respect. Apologetics isn’t just for some Christians, it is for all Christians. We all must know what we believe, why we believe it, how to live it, how to defend it, and how to proclaim it – and we must do so with gentleness and respect.”
While we may have little to no control over other people’s attitudes in situations I’ve just described, we can control our own attitude with the Holy Spirit’s help. Ask God even at this moment to give you an attitude of gentleness and respect in anticipation of people who will ask you questions about the gospel.
Soli deo Gloria!