Who then will harm you if you are devoted to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear them or be intimidated, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. Yet do this with gentleness and reverence, keeping a clear conscience, so that when you are accused, those who disparage your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.1 Peter 3:13—17
According to one count, the gospels record 132 contacts that Jesus had with people. Six were in the Temple, four in the synagogues and 122 were with people outside of religious settings. These were people he healed, blessed, taught, forgave, and fed. And these things happened mostly outside of church services. And that’s what 1 Peter is all about. How do we live as followers of Jesus the other six days of the week? And what does it mean to be more confident Christians?
Peter’s audience were being called to live good, faithful lives as Christians in an unwelcoming, even hostile, environment. There were social consequences for being a Christian in that culture. So, Peter wants to assure them and help them. Should they withdraw in fear? How should they handle these circumstances?
The first thing Peter tells them is not to be afraid. He quotes Isaiah 8:12: Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. We may not be in the same situation, but maybe the questions that come to mind are, “What will this person say or how will they react if I bring up church or God? What if they ask me a question I don’t know how to answer? What if I say the wrong thing?”
Have you ever felt that way? Maybe you choose not to say anything to be sure you don’t say the wrong thing. And even when we do say something about our faith, we can often feel like we got it wrong. Maybe we’re afraid we messed up.
What does Peter tell them to do instead of responding with fear? He says this: In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Why does he say this? Jesus is Lord. That he is Lord means he is sovereign. That means he is in control. And I think here this means that we can trust that Christ is with us even as we interact with the people around us. We can trust that he is Lord even of our conversations.
Let’s put it this way: Living as more confident Christians is possible because Jesus is Lord.
If you’re feeling anxious or uncertain or fearful about your own faith and whether or not you can live out your faith well around other people, remember that it’s not about whether or not you are perfect. Your confidence doesn’t come from your own feelings of strength but from knowing Jesus is with you and that he can help you and can use you. Being a more confident Christian means growing in our confidence in the gospel and in Jesus. And this can happen with time.
Does the subject of religion and church and God ever come up in your conversations? What is that like?How does the idea of talking to someone about Jesus make you feel? Might it make a difference knowing that God can use even your most awkward conversation?
Three times in this passage Peter refers to these Christians as doing good. He’s saying that they are living as people who seek to not only honour God but love their neighbours too. And this catches the attention of their neighbours who aren’t followers of Jesus. Especially since the Christians continue to do good despite being mistreated themselves. This is why Peter tells them: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
You see, if we live our lives in a way that honours Christ, and continue to love our neighbours, then unbelievers may be compelled to ask us about why we are the way we are. Because the thing is this: we never know when someone might ask us about our belief in Jesus.
We can put it this way: Living as more confident Christians means being ready to share our faith.
We need to be ready to share with the people around us why it is we believe in Jesus. What is your experience of Jesus? What difference has Christ made to your life? People want to know not only what we believe but why we believe it. They will want to know how we deal with the big questions of life and how we respond to hard questions about the Christian faith.
There is a whole area of theology called apologetics that is all about defending our faith and which can also help us to have confidence in our faith. We can grow in confidence, therefore, that our faith is based on what is true about us, the world, and God. Growing in this kind of confidence is more and more important in a culture where truth is thought to be relative, and which is more and more pluralistic and secular. The less any residual Christian belief informs our cultural structures and principles, the more grounded we need to be in what we believe.
I wonder if around here there are a lot of people who already think they know what Christianity is. Maybe people can become so familiar with churches and the Christian faith that they become almost inoculated to the good news of Jesus. Is it possible some people are too familiar with it?
Of course, being prepared to have an answer assumes we’re around non-believers regularly enough that this might be a possibility. We’re actively seeking to bless our neighbours, to engage our communities through acts of service and love.
And notice what else Peter says about being ready to share our faith: But do this with gentleness and respect. I love this. This is so important. Because, frankly, not everyone shares what they believe—including Christians—with gentleness and respect. We’re looking to win a friend not an argument.
This is all a part of remembering that every person we talk to and interact with is someone made in the image of God, worthy of respect and dignity. Each person we meet is loved with an infinite love by God. And, of course, this is also why we should be prepared to share the hope we have in Christ, because we want people to know and receive God’s love for them.
Do you think people around have a pretty good idea about what Christians believe? Why or why not?Why are you a Christian? What does being a follower of Jesus mean to you?How would you explain your faith in God to someone who isn’t familiar with the Bible or Christian words?
A young salesman was disappointed about losing a big sale, and as he talked with his sales manager he lamented, “I guess it just proves you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” The manager replied, “Son, take my advice: your job is not to make him drink. Your job is to make him thirsty.” Think about that. Your job is to make him thirsty. Our lives should be so filled with Christ that they create a thirst for the Gospel.
In his book The Fight, John White writes: “A good witness isn’t like a salesman, emphasis is on a person rather than a product. A good witness is like a signpost. It doesn’t matter whether it is old, young, pretty, ugly; it has to point the right direction and be able to be understood. We are witnesses to Christ, we point to him.”
Notice the connection between engaging our community by doing good and having the opportunity to share our faith in Christ. First of all, unless we are in proximity to those who don’t follow Jesus, we’ll have no one with whom to share our faith. Second, our doing good lends credibility to our words and will gain us more opportunity to speak well of Jesus and share our hope in him.Living as more confident Christians means persisting in doing good.
Here’s the thing. I find it can be hard to have a lot of opportunities to build relationships with people who don’t go to church. I feel like I have to play the long game. Because there aren’t a lot of organic, natural ways where I find myself around people who aren’t church people. It’s actually about two things for me. First, make the most of every opportunity. By that I mean when I see someone in Sobey’s or somewhere else, my desire is to just be kind, loving, patient. Be someone who seeks to listen. Show interest in who people are. In other words, it’s not about trying to shoehorn religion or church into every conversation.
Second, ask God for opportunities to share your faith and to help you be ready for when those moments come. Invite someone to church. Offer to pray for them. And ask God for discernment to know when to do these things. I love what Paul says in Colossians 4:5—6: Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Notice how both Peter and Paul talk about knowing how to answer everyone? One of the reasons this is significant, I think, is that it’s the other person who is showing interest and initiative. Which means something about you makes them want to ask. And it means they’re ready for a conversation. And not every person we know is the same.
And also notice how Paul says—not unlike Peter—Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders. Keep being kind. Do good. And then? Let your conversation be always full of grace. There’s that gentleness and respect thing again. Seasoned with salt. Be someone other people enjoy talking with. Our words should be winsome.
What opportunities do you have you to talk with people who aren’t followers of Jesus? How do you handle those opportunities?Are you prepared to bless and love your neighbours even if they never come to faith in Christ?How does your hope in Christ make it possible to persist in doing good? In what way can our actions communicate our hope? Count Zinzendorf—bishop of the Moravian Church in the 18th century—founded The Order of the Mustard Seed. The Order had three guiding principles: 1. Be kind to all people. 2. Seek their welfare. 3. Win them to Christ. In some ways, we see these three principles reflected in our passage from 1 Peter. In our passage, it’s in part the first two principles here that make following the third one—winning people to Christ—possible. Becoming more confident Christians means growing in our confidence not first and foremost in ourselves but in Christ and his good news.