Today’s Reading: 1 Peter 3-5
Today’s Reflection: 1 Peter 3:15-16
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,
One of the most persistent claims made against religion or faith by atheists is that it is not logical or that accepting the existence of God would require them to give up reason. This text puts the lie to that claim.
1 Peter 3:15 is often referred to as the ‘apologists creed’. The word translated as ‘defense’ is ‘apologia’ in Greek, and is defined as a speech in defense or a reasoned statement or argument. So an apologist is a Christian who doesn’t merely claim faith in Jesus, but who is able to defend that faith, to explain to others what they believe and why. The apologist is able to express how the story of Jesus Christ the Righteous, the Messiah sent to save mankind from sin, intersects with their own story and explain how the testimony of Jesus has now become part of their own testimony.
All of the apostles and disciples of the first century church, including Paul, Peter, Philip and Stephen, were apologists. Notable modern day apologists include Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, and the late C.S. Lewis. Reading their works it becomes quite clear that faith and reason do not contradict each other nearly as much as atheists would have you believe. In fact they coexist together quite well.
While apologetics is practiced as a discipline, in my experience I’ve found that it exists quite oddly as a separate entity from traditional faith. I find this odd because Peter’s text doesn’t suggest having a reason for faith is an optional thing, or something reserved for a special group or class of believers. Rather having a reason or defense for one’s faith is something every Christian can and should do, no different than exercising faith itself, or engaging in prayer, or experiencing and overcoming trials, or submission and surrender to the leading of the Holy Spirit, or striving for obedience and transformation of thought, word and deed into Christ-like character. Being an apologist should be an essential for every Christian. Doing so requires you do three things:
1) Be fully committed to Christ. Before you can defend your faith, you have to be living it. The text begins “in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy”, so you must recognize Jesus as lord of your life, honour His holiness by accepting His sacrifice, and be committed to following Him.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 – 14) For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15) and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
2) Be prepared. In order to defend your faith you must understand it and be able to explain it. Justification, sanctification, righteousness by faith, the law and the prophets, the blood of the lamb. All of these concepts play a role in our faith. We must be studied and knowledgeable enough to obediently follow where God is leading us.
2 Timothy 2:15 – Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
Importantly, we must be able to share our faith with others in a way they can understand. A lot of these theological terms meaningless to the un-churched so just as the prophets, psalmists, proverb writers and Jesus Himself used examples people of their time could understand (agriculture, weather patterns, cultural norms and folk tales) we too must use language and examples people today can understand.
1 Corinthians 9:21-23 – 21) To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22) To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23) I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
3) Be respectful. The apologist can defend their faith without insulting or disrespecting non-believers. For an excellent example of how to do this, look at how the apostle Paul addresses an audience of mythological god worshipers in Athens (Acts 17:16-34).
We are all called as Christians to share the Gospel with others. We can’t do this without being able to defend our faith and explain why we believe what we believe to others.
Luke 21:12-15 – 12) But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13) This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14) Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15) for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.