“Give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)
Have you ever heard the expression “Bible bashing”? It can be done from pulpit or in person by aggressively using the Bible to twist arms and force submission.
Peter speaks against the practice of Bible bashing. Even though he believes that the Bible is the inspired word of God Himself, and that it holds the message of life, he does not instruct us to cram it down someone’s throat but instead to appeal to them.
Rather, we are to reason, to think through together, giving a defense for the hope that is ours in Christ. The picture Peter paints is one of dialog not domination. He says we are to engage others with gentleness and respect. We are not to talk at people, but with them, respecting them as the image bearers of God that they are.
In his letter to Timothy, Paul emphasizes that the Bible is the very word of the living God, able to make a person wise in salvation through faith in Jesus (2 Tim. 3:15-17). Yet Paul’s charge to Timothy is to bring that word to bear with patience and instruction as he engages others for teaching, reproof, correction, or training in righteousness (2 Tim. 4:2).
If we would speak the truth in love, we must do so with these four qualities: gentleness, respect, patience, and instruction. It is not ours to convince, convict, or convert. That job belongs to the Holy Spirit who makes alive and gives ears to hear and hearts to receive and embrace Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel.
We must see our roles as spiritual midwives, not as spiritual salesmen. Our witness for Christ must be done in a clear conscience, giving those who accuse us and abuse us no justification for their actions. The offense we give must be that of the gospel that is the stench of death to those who are perishing but the aroma of life to those God has granted life.
REFLECTION: What is the difference between a spiritual midwife and a spiritual salesman?
Unless noted otherwise, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.