Sharing our faith
Sharing our faith in our cultural context today is tricky business as it is perhaps the most politically incorrect thing we can do. And yet, we have a message of hope and life and we have to share it.
I was not raised in a home with faith. Over the years some of my family have embraced Christ, while others have not…at least not yet. When I am with people who are far from God, I am constantly thinking, “How can I nudge this conversation forward into themes of life, faith, and God?” And then there are those times when people are asking questions. During both of these kinds of conversations, I am so aware that destinies are in the balance, so while I am talking and listening, I am also praying for wisdom.
I find what Peter says about sharing our faith to be both simple and powerful. He explains: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:15-16 NIV). Here in Peter’s epistle, we learn that we need three helpful principles in order to communicate the Gospel with clarity and respect.
We need to know why
Peter tells us to “set apart”—or sanctify—Christ in our lives. This means living out the reign and rule of Christ in our lives. This is about understanding the “why” of motivation. People are motivated intrinsically (internally) and extrinsically (from outside). Character-based people “do the right thing” and then feel good about it afterwards, while emotionally-based people “wait to feel right” about it and then do it—that is, if the feeling ever comes. Our motivation should be intrinsic and grow out of our submission to Christ, out of gratitude for what Christ has done for us, as well as out of authentic care and compassion for others.
We need to know what
Peter also challenges us to be prepared to “give an answer” for our faith. This suggests that we need to expose ourselves to suitable training to help us share our faith in our cultural context. We need to be able to tell our story, tell the story of Jesus, and be able to answer some foundational questions about faith, life, and other worldviews. Yes, people want to see the testimony of our life, but they also have questions. We can’t debate them into the kingdom, but we do need to engage in their very real questions.
We need to know how
Our strategy should reflect a “gentle” style as Jesus himself was always gracious with those who were far from him. We should also reflect an attitude of “respect,” as God has given us the freedom of choice. Our outreach initiatives should also always be an extension of our reputation (note “keeping a clear conscience”). Scandal and hypocrisy erodes our platform of influence. While every missional context will require unique, strategic adaptation of methods, Jesus modelled a simple strategy which we can follow. Jesus showed that he cared, and when we care, people are more inclined to listen. When we care, we build a platform of credibility on which to communicate.
Our hope and prayer in this communication is that people will embrace the message of the Gospel. Invariably, this is a process and it takes time. But let’s be faithful in sharing this message which has so profoundly changed us.