“But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame” (1Peter 3:15-16).
At the University of Texas at San Antonio, there’s a student organization called the Atheist Agenda that has been known to challenge faith every now and then. One of their events that they regularly host is called “Smut for Smut,” and the idea behind this is if you give them your Bible, or any other religious book like the Quran, then they will give you a free pornographic magazine.
They consider this a trade of equal value. Of course, you’ll also find the Christian groups that protest and pray at that same event. There was a video clip posted on Yahoo that showed one of the members of the Atheist Agenda confronting what seems to be a fellow student who is supporting the Bible. Yes, he was holding his pro-Bible sign with pride, but when he was asked if he ever read the whole Bible, he admitted that he hadn’t. As the atheist student gets more aggressive and asks for an explanation for the “horrible things” found in the Bible, the young Bible believer tries to walk away as he realizes that he has no defense for his belief. He had no credibility in support of the religious position he held.
This is a bigger issue than advertised, since more and more Christians are trying to defend a faith using nothing more than their feelings and “spirituality.” This is not how you defend Christianity, because Christianity is NOT a blind faith. It is NOT subjective, based on feelings and opinions, but objective, based on real facts and evidences. Christianity is a reasonable response to the evidence at hand. It is based on a real, historical Jesus that impacted the world in such a way that we even number our years after His birth. But the only way we can know the teachings, claims, and character of Jesus is in the Bible, the most accurate, valuable, and proven “history” book that has ever existed. But how can we expect to defend what we believe in without ever looking into the Word that establishes our belief (Romans 10:17)? Let me go even further, if we can’t defend it, then why believe in it? We must be able to know not only what we believe but also why we believe in it. Not only that, but we must also be able to know and defend the reason we engage in the certain religious practices that characterize our faith. This is vital because our defense exposes what our faith is truly founded on, and most of the time it’s founded on “I don’t know, I just like it.” But it’s one thing to recognize the importance of defending your faith, and it’s another to know HOW to defend your faith.
In 1Peter 3:15, Peter urges every Christian to give a defense against those who ask the reason for our faith, and he tells us exactly how to do this. First of all, we must “always be prepared.” Preparation simply means to get ready, and in terms of biblical faith, perhaps one might equate this to more Bible reading. Yes, reading the Bible more often is good, but preparing ourselves to defend the Christian faith takes more than that. Perhaps there is no better image of what preparation looks like than the one found in Ezra, “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). We learn from Ezra that having a prepared heart means having a dedication or deep desire for God’s Will, His law. Preparation doesn’t stop at seeking or acquiring knowledge, but progresses with doing God’s Will, for action is the proof of belief. Finally, preparation involves helping others to be prepared as well, by teaching the things that have been learned. There exists no finer program for the development of character. We may ask how this helps to defend the faith, but we must be aware that the first and best line of defense will always be our conduct and character, for this establishes the credibility of our words. Simply relying on knowledge to speak of our faith without “walking the walk” is not called wisdom – it’s called hypocrisy.
It is only when we seek to establish Godly character that we will be ready to answer our accusers, “yet with gentleness and reverence.” Defending our faith doesn’t only mean having the right words to say, but HOW we say them. Clothing our words with gentleness and respect shows that we not only recognize the value of every soul to God, but also that we are in the soul-saving business, not the argument-winning business. We give answers to teach, not answers to beat down. Yes, there will be many who do not wish to hear truth no matter how gently we break it down to them. Yet, if it is possible, as much as depends on us, we still must try to be peacemakers, not verse-shouters (Romans 12:18). It’s interesting but the people who scare accusers and non-believers the most are the knowledgeable Christians who not only practice what they preach, but carry themselves in a gentle and respectful manner, never losing control of their emotions, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1Peter 2:15). This “total package” type of Christian is an absolute nightmare to the attackers of the Christian faith. So why aren’t we trying to achieve this high degree of Christianity? Why do we always look for shortcuts and settle for the easy Christianity? Why are we trying to fight this battle using broken swords? The good news is that we are still alive and can still prove to be a priceless resource to God. We just have to do it. Anybody can be a great defender of the Christian faith; all it takes is seeking God’s will, doing it, and teaching it with gentleness and respect, always keeping a good conscience, so that “those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.” Are you willing to do what it takes to defend Christ?
Hallowell, Billy (2012), “Atheist Students Encourage Christians to Exchange Their Bibles for…Pornography,” The Blaze, http://news.yahoo.com/atheist-students-encourage-christians-exchange-bibles-pornography-013422828.html.