Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 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, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.1 Peter 3:13-17
This morning I read an excellent little article that said we Christians are to be “gentle aggressors.” We aren’t usually taught to be aggressors. That doesn’t sound Christlike. But I have to agree completely with the article which got the term from this text in 1 Peter where we are told to do our apologetics or gospel proclamation “with gentleness and respect.” Jesus did make it very clear that we are to “go” and make disciples, not wait for them to “come” to church and ask us how to become a Christian. Somehow, we have largely gotten it backward. Christianity is a “go” religion, not a “come” religion.
God is a missionary or apostolic God. (Both terms, missionary and apostolic simply mean to be sent.) The Father sent the Son to live a perfect life on our behalf and die on our behalf. The Father and the Son sent the Spirit to indwell us and empower us, and the Spirit sends us to the world around us with good news. We are all missionaries, which simply means “sent ones.” We are all sent by the Spirit into our personal mission fields, whether that field is a school, a workplace, or overseas into a different culture. We are all sent. This is why we must see that we are aggressors, we are sent into the world with good news. We are not to wait for lost people to ask us how to be saved.
I am sure we have all seen street preachers who stand on the street corner and either yell at passersby or blast from their megaphone that the hearers are all sinners and need to be saved, need to come to Jesus, etc. I’m not opposed to the message (in most instances), but I question the method. My experience with most street preachers is that they are not speaking gently nor treating the passersby with respect.
This passage in 1 Peter is usually quoted to support the idea that we all need to be able to give a defense for why we believe the gospel. And it does do that. However, the greatest thrust of the passage speaks to the spirit in which we communicate the gospel. Peter says we are to be zealous for the gospel. That sounds like aggressive language. We should be on the go with the gospel. But additionally, Peter says to do it with gentleness and respect, do it with a good conscience, do it so your good behavior will put to shame your persecutors. In our hearts, we are to honor Christ the Lord as holy.
I know some of us are fearful of proclaiming the gospel in our workplace because we may get sent to the Human Resources Office for creating a hostile work environment. This fear is a tactic of the enemy to stop us from proclaiming the gospel. We are commanded to proclaim the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20). But here, Peter speaks to how we are to proclaim the gospel. Do it from a life well-lived, do it as a valued employee, so that when you are slandered (and you probably will be), those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
I will end with one of my favorite passages of Scripture.
And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
What is sown in the passage is the gospel, the word of God. What it produces is a harvest of righteousness, both the righteousness of justification and the righteousness of sanctification. But the key to this harvest of practical righteousness, also known as sanctification, is who is doing the sowing. It is produced by sowers who are peacemakers, and they sow in peace. We cannot sow the gospel with ungodly attitudes and expect our disciples to not also to be ungodly because they naturally will follow the one who sowed the gospel into their life. This could sound like I am saying we need to be perfect before we proclaim the gospel, so we don’t have imperfect disciples. Not so. What I am saying is that we who recognize that we are ambassadors for Christ need to reflect (regardless of how imperfectly) the character of Christ. Then there will be a reasonable continuity between the message we proclaim, the life we demonstrate, and the disciples we produce.