We’ve had some great discussions with Lynn’s posts about atheist blogs and the unequally yoked. As I’ve shared with you all here, my husband is an atheist and his choice not to believe in God has been a huge catalyst for me to be clear on what God’s Word says and to claim many of the promises contained therein.
Scripture holds so many answers for us as well and instructions and examples. If you want to know how to love a person unconditionally, study how Jesus loved people. If you want to know how to answer people (atheists, agnostics, those of different faiths, and even believers) who question or criticize your faith, study how Jesus instructed his disciples and answered (or didn’t) the Pharisees, Sadducees and Pontius Pilate. If you want to know what to say when asked about your faith, study God’s Word and you will know not only what to say, but how to act and react. Again, our actions can speak louder than our words.
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. — 1 Peter 3:15-17
I want to take this gold mine of Scripture apart just a bit, because there is a deeper meaning here than we first see. And we have four areas of instruction here.
First, set Christ apart as Lord. Lynn’s post yesterday is a great example of this. This is where it starts. We must know who we are in Christ. If you are hazy about who Jesus was, why He came, and most importantly, why God the Father sent Him, your foundation is weak.
If you look at the NASB version of this line, it reads like this:
But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts
We are being called here to make Christ holy and hallowed in our hearts. By the way, the Greek word for sanctify in 1 Peter 3:15 is the same word used in 1 Cor. 7:14: For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife. Food for thought and a future blog post perhaps?
I have a feeling we won’t completely understand the full power and strength behind this sanctification until we reach the other side of the “veil” but there’s no doubting there is something powerful there.
Second, be prepared to explain your hope. It doesn’t say THE hope but YOUR hope. How often have you shared from your heart what something has meant to you and watched the other person understand and even relate to what you’re saying? The key here is sharing what you know, what your acceptance of Christ has meant to you, how your faith has changed your life for good. This is not about us changing the other person’s mind. That’s up to God. This is about sharing what Christ has meant to you. Share Jesus and be real.
This kind of authenticity is powerful! When we are transparent and share how Jesus has taken our broken lives and brought hope and healing, people will listen. And when our actions support that, people are convinced.
And being prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks shows us that often times it’s not we who initiate the conversation. It’s about keeping our spiritual antennae on alert for those divine appointments orchestrated by God, for the person He suddenly sets in front of us who is seeking or hurting.
Which brings us to the third point—how we share our faith. With gentleness and respect. Jesus came with the attitude of a servant and not just for those who believed in Him. He extended this to everyone, believers and unbelievers alike. He could have looked down on us from his superior place upon the throne, but instead He became like us (except in sin) so He could save us. Jesus never made anyone feel like they were “less.” On the contrary, He lifted them (and us) from the pit of sin and despair to share with Him all that God has to offer. We are co-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). And Jesus offers that to everyone.
And fourth and finally, yes, there will be times that we will suffer for our faith. Times where standing for what we believe will bring ridicule and rejections. In 2008 I shared a time (A Choice of Faith) where I had to choose standing for what I believed over my husband’s approval. It was a hard thing to do, especially for a people pleaser like me, but I just could not turn my back on God and what I knew to be true in his Word.
I did, however, have to keep a clear conscience and leave the results to God. That is what the last part of 1 Peter 3:17 is about. We must do what we know to be true and right according to our belief in Jesus and His Word. And we must leave the results to God. He will take care of it. Some will be held accountable in this lifetime and some in the next.
Lynn and I have witnessed God turn a heart from indignant criticism for what we stand for here at SUM to repentance and a desire to understand better. In that moment Lynn and I simply shared what we knew to be true with respect and gentleness. God took care of the result and helped this person to see the truth. To see Him. Imagine what the result would have been had we fired back the same kind of attitude and ridicule.
I’ll never forget what one of my husband’s friends said to me once. We were discussing the differences in our beliefs, me as a Christian and him more of an agnostic/atheist. He said, “You’re not like most Christians.” I was pleased and saddened at the same time. Pleased that I had shared my faith without making him feel less. Saddened that he saw most Christians as being judgmental.
I don’t believe most of us are but I do think we have moments where we can come across that way. The media has a way of focusing only on the negative and the negative is always what seems to make the headlines. It’s easy for anyone (even us) to make broad statements about the faceless but put a face on the target and make it personal. Then decide if that statement is still worth making. This is the consideration most believers want to extend and we only ask for the same consideration.
If we must suffer for standing for our faith, so be it. But let us do it with clear consciences knowing that we have above all served Jesus and His unfathomable sacrifice for us by sharing the hope we have because of what He did. And let’s be real (not perfect) about it too.
Praying and believing,