“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,” (1 Peter 3:15).
Surrounding this verse, Peter is giving encouragement to those of his audience who would “suffer for righteousness” (v14). He calls them to fearlessness and peace and then in this verse to hearts that “honor Christ the Lord as holy“. Christ is set apart; He is “the Holy One” (Isaiah 40:25). How does one honor Christ the Lord as holy? We see the answer in the participle, “being“. One way to honor “Christ the Lord as holy” is by “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you“. We honor Christ by being prepared to stand up for Him and for the truth of His gospel even under suffering.
Many Christians do this well, praise be to God. What I see more Christians struggle with is the next part of the verse: “yet do it with gentleness and respect“. The reason given by Peter, in verse 16, is “so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” When we are boldly proclaiming Christ and Him crucified with our words, we are called to do so with gentleness and respect.
Christians are stigmatized by brashness and disrespect. We are known for “inflicting” our beliefs on people. We are accused of “shoving” the gospel “down people’s throats”. Brothers, this should not be. Our motivation for preaching the gospel should be love, and therefore our delivery should be oozing with love.
Now, by no means am I advocating the sugarcoating of God’s word. We ought to tell it like it is. But we should always do so with gentleness and respect.
Ironically, the more that we are “prepared to make a defense“, the easier it is to become arrogant. 1 Corinthians 8:1 says, “this ‘knowledge’ puffs up“. Do you know what the prescription is? Same verse: “but love builds up“. By all means, let us prepare, and let us grow in the knowledge of God, for the glory of God. But may we humble ourselves at the Lord’s footstool, that we may always speak to others with gentleness and respect.
1 Kings 13
1 Peter 3