Anyone who has known me for any great length of time likely knows some of my favorite verses of scripture. One of these favorites, written on the image at left, has fueled much of my exploration of Christian apologetics. I share a love for this particular passage with my friend Geoff, who also holds apologetics near and dear to his heart. This verse gives us specific direction to be prepared to share a defense (apologia) of our faith. It reminds us that faith need not be blind, nor uninformed.
Too often we feel unprepared to defend what we believe; frustrated by the lack of faith in our environment, as well as our inability to present the most basic tenets of Christianity. We need to remember, we’re not on the hook for someone’s response to the Gospel; that’s between the person and God. However, we are responsible to prepare ourselves for when an opportunity arises to share our faith. For many years, I walked on the crutch of “I’m unprepared,” or “Oh, I’m not good with words,” or even the infamous “God will use someone or something to reach out to that person.” If not us, who? If not now, when? I realized after some number of years, feeling unprepared was just as I described it above: a crutch. A poor excuse. If I walk around saying I’m not prepared for five years, I probably need to be asking what it would take to get that way. Five years is a long time to get prepared. If you’re a person of faith, you can prepare yourself. We need not be the next C.S. Lewis or Francis Schaeffer (two of my favorites) to give an account of what we believe. A simple description of who you were and the path you traveled before Christ compared to who you are and where you’re headed now is an excellent starting point…and one you can use today. Will there be challenges to your beliefs? Absolutely. Will there be questions for which you don’t yet have an answer? Without a doubt. Those should not be seen as roadblocks to sharing with a particular person! Those are opportunities to go together and find the answers! Truth has nothing to hide. You can trust that it will stand up any scrutiny. It’s Truth.
And now, the hard part. If you made it to the latter portion of the verse above, you’ll see it says a little bit about how we are to approach sharing: “yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Ouch. That can be tough. So tough, in fact, that many of us disregard that part altogether. When we’re not ignoring or silently grumbling under our breath about a lack of faith in our society, we sometimes fall into a pattern of presenting something that looks a lot more like a challenge or provocation than a defense of the Hope that’s in us. This may stem from a lack of patience, courage, or understanding. Whatever the reason, it’s an urge or habit we should avoid. Sure, the angry guy on a streetcorner with a bullhorn has his place, but I’m not sure the cars passing by are paying him any mind. God’s not the vindictive, lightning-bolt throwing Big Brother in the sky that the world perceives Him to be. Neither should we be. The Gospel was built on Love, and can be presented with love. “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.“(1 Corinthians 13:2). Don’t misunderstand me; we should never water down or soften the Gospel to make it more palatable, but we definitely can be mindful of our audience while we’re presenting it. Know where they are right now, and meet them there with the Truth you have found. We are not in a superior position when we share our faith. Let that sink in. We are no more deserving of grace than anyone else on this planet. We “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Not some of us. ALL. As Steve Brown says, we should just be beggars trying to tell other beggars where we found bread.
Pascal’s wager is simply not enough. More than once, I’ve encountered professing Christians whose entire approach to evangelism is “Well, if you’re right and I’m wrong, I’ve lost nothing. If I’m right and you’re wrong, you’re going to pay.” Personally, I think it’s an injustice to default to this approach. I’ve seen it tried a number of times, but never successfully. As you might imagine, it tends to draw a defensive, closed-off reaction. If we’re going to prepare and share our Faith, we should do it well. We need to “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). I don’t recall ever seeing someone argued into the Kingdom. I have seen hearts changed in response to humble Truth, though.