Everyone is Called to Make a Defense, But What Defense is Everyone Called to Give?
by Sarah J. Flashing
The mandate is clear. The Christian life isn’t about quiet, self-indulgence on the promises of Scripture nor is it about a faux spiritual gluttony that fattens our sense of self-worth with false promises of financial prosperity. The expectation for every person is this: to love God and express it in various ways including neighbor love, formal worship, disciple-making and the study of scripture. Sometimes in the midst of all this we are also called to “make a defense” for the faith, and doing so requires we be prepared. I like to occasionally revisit the “charter” passage that grounds this every-growing movement of training defenders of the faith:
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if hat should be God’s will, than for doing evil. 1 Peter 3:13-17
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This letter written by Peter the Apostle was delivered to what were likely Gentile believers under the serious and real threat of persecution. In it, they are encouraged to remain immovable in their love for God in word and in manner of living. Followers of Jesus are expected to respond to persecution similarly. To whatever degree the Church experiences persecution today, Christians need to have the word of God stamped into their soul. They need to know what they believe–the content of their faith–and be able to communicate these beliefs clearly, giving their oppressor every reason to repent and profess Christ as Lord and Savior.
But I believe we have to ask ourselves about the opportunities Christians today are to make a defense, and the answer to this may depend on many factors including vocation, location, and even education. In the academy, Christians may have to respond to the arguments of their liberal counterparts in ways different from auto mechanic being mocked for the Bible in his tool box. The missionary in Moscow may need to know a bit more about atheism than the missionary in Appalachia. How do the lives of people in the pew relate to the apologetics training available to them?
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