Imagine that you are sitting in a doctor’s office. You just had some standard tests run. It is taking longer than usually which causes you to become nervous. What you do not yet know is that the test results have come back and they have confirmed you have a life-threatening disease; your condition is urgent.
Let’s take a step back. How would you like the doctor to inform you about your condition? What if he were to come in and say without any compassion, “You are going to die if you do not do exactly I tell you.” Would you be very pleased with him? How should a doctor inform a patient about their condition? They should inform them lightly, tactfully and with kindness. In other words the doctor should give the news to their patient with “gentleness and respect.”
In 1 Peter 3:15, it says, “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.”
This is the final article in our series “The Principles of Apologetics.” The word apologetics has to do with defending our faith. This is a huge task and should not be taken lightly. We need to be willing and ready to defend the message of the Gospel. In doing this, we must make sure we present it in a God-honoring way.
Consider the following passages:
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9).
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18).
“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
Listen to this terrible truth: there are souls in the world that will be eternally separated from their Creator and Father. In fact, at one point we all were in this lost condition (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 59:1-2; Romans 6:23). Yet through the power of God we were saved (Romans 5:1-2). We are now given the mission to go out and tell others (Matthew 28:19-20). In doing this we often find those who oppose the truth and we therefore must defend it (Jude 1:3).
The way in which we defend the faith must be shaped by the previous passages we listed on love. When we talk to those who do not yet know God we need to realize that we too were in their condition. Often times its easy for us to criticize those who reject the truth or are caught up in error. In some cases Christians may even become hostile toward these people.
When Abraham Lincoln was president during the time of the Civil War, the North and the South were harshly divided. It was easy for people of the opposing sides to look down on the other. Concerning this Abraham Lincoln famously said, “Don’t criticize them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances.”
Think about that in concerns to those who are in denominational error. What if we had grown up in the same household they did? What if we had gone through the same things they have? This is not to create excuses for those who oppose the truth, but I am appealing for us to have compassion on them while we strive to show them Jesus.
We need to treat all people with “gentleness and respect.” This is true in our daily lives in normal tasks with other people, and it is true when we are discussing the truth of God’s word with those who are in error.