How We Live Defending Our Faith
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason off the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.1 Peter 3:15
“Defending the faith” is one definition of apologetics. However, defending the faith is not an academic exercise so much as the responsibility of every Christian. It is to be lived, not just studied. How?
First, we defend our faith when we honor the Lord in our hearts. We must fear and honor the Lord more than we fear and honor people or ideas. The Word of the Lord matters more than the words of men and women (1:25). When the gospel of our Lord changes our lives and then our relationships and communities, we are defending our faith:
The reason that today or any day represents a special opportunity the reason that apologetics is relevant – is not primarily because we have a good understanding of the cultural context. Rather it is because of the message, the good news of the gospel. By definition it is fresh, and even surprising.1
Living in obedience to Scripture is then living in defense of our faith.
Second, we can live defending our faith by living with hope. Peter, while writing to a persecuted and dispersed people, assumed Christians would be living with such hope that people would ask them how and why. Today this hope is contrary to the self-help and despair that most of the world lives with, because this hope is not in human change. This hope is certain faith in the revelation and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which brings with it the promise of a great inheritance (1:3, 13). This hope is central to what it means to live as a Christian.
Third, we live defending our faith when we are ready to give an answer. It may be answering those whom we engage in conversation, or more particularly, those who ask us why we have hope. We often think this will require much study and understanding of philosophy, culture, and other religions, and this knowledge is possible and even helpful. But you do not need that before you begin defending your faith; Peter says be ready to give an answer for your hope, not your knowledge (see 1:13)! But are we living in conversation with others? Are we using creation, morality, desire, beauty, relationships, parenting, and eternity as topics of conversation with others where our hope (as informed by Scripture) can shine through? Are you ready to answer the questions: What do you believe? Why do you believe that?
Fourth, we defend our faith when we live with meekness and fear, or with gentleness and respect. As we defend ourselves, it is easy to begin to attack others. There may be a place for going on the offensive against ideas (2 Cor. 10:5), but we must remember we are not defending ourselves; we are defending the hope that we have in Christ. This must be done with winsomeness, a respectful attitude, and a good conscience. We must put away all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander (2:1), even in the context of persecution and hatred. However, it is how we must live as we defend our faith (2:13-19).
For it is better ... that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing3:17
For all four of these, we need the gift of the Holy Spirit in us so we can honor the Lord and live with hope, as well as having Him work through us so that we can properly live and defend our faith. So, as you consider how you should defend the faith, think about your own life rather than others: Is your life honoring the Lord? Is your life shining with hope? Is your life ready to engage others? Is your life lived with gentleness and respect?