Friday night was a revealing night at our church as Brett Kunkle, an apologist with Stand to Reason Ministries, came out to discuss Mormonism with our congregation. Of course most of the crowd had no clue of this fact, because he presented himself as Elder Brett of the LDS Church! The good thing that was revealed is that many in our midst are zealous and bold when it comes to defending their faith. And this is certainly praiseworthy. The bad thing (if I can say it that way) that was revealed was really twofold. First, the night exposed that many among us were underprepared to argue from the scriptures against the Mormon position. Many unsuccessfully attempted to explain the deity of Christ or to demonstrate what actually disqualifies a Mormon from being a true Christian. The second thing that came to light was that many among us were unsuccessful at disagreeing in a gentle and loving way. I guess the moral of the story can be summed up with a one-word challenge: grow. We need to grow in our understanding of the Word and in our love for those whom we disagree with.
Defending the Hope Within
As you know we are currently in a series at The Well called Christianity in the Crosshairs where we are studying 1 Peter. In chapter 3 of that epistle, Peter ties these two ideas together in one succinct verse.
“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” (v.15).
In context, Peter is encouraging believers who are suffering at the hands of others, being persecuted and slandered for their faith. Peter’s challenge is to be “zealous for what is good” (v.13). In other words, don’t allow the way others treat you – even if they persecute you – to cause you to respond in unrighteous ways. Rather, maintain your character and godliness. That way, if you suffer, you are suffering for righteousness sake. And here’s the kicker. When you do that—when you respond righteously to the assaults and insults of others—they are going to scratch their heads in confusion and ask “why do you do that? Why don’t you retaliate?”
This brings us back to (v.15). When the questions start coming in, “be prepared to make a defense.” Know how to articulate your faith and the hope that you have within you. Be ready to share the gospel and point people to Jesus. But…and this is an important but… “do it with gentleness and respect.”
Hostility VS Hospitality
Interestingly, Elder Brett wasn’t persecuting us! He wasn’t being mean or hostile to us at all. He simply asked a completely understandable question: “What does it take for someone to be a Christian?” When no one was able to give a fully rounded answer that precluded those of the Mormon faith, we basically lost our cool. What we need is a good, healthy, refreshing reminder from the Apostle Peter. Are we going to share our faith with a handshake, engaging people who disagree with us with humility and gentleness, or are we going to try to share our faith with a hand grenade, loosing our cool and blowing up on people who disagree with our position?
Next time we find ourselves in a situation where we are trying to communicate the gospel to someone who deeply disagrees with us, we need to
1. Be prepared, know our stuff, and be able to articulate clearly the doctrines of Christianity.
2. Communicate with gentleness and respect. As a Christian, yes we need to be moved with conviction when communicating the gospel to non-believers. But here’s the key, our conviction always needs to be tempered with compassion.
Let’s make it our aim to heed the exhortation of Peter and seek to grow in this area. We will never be able to share the love of Christ with others if we don’t first display His love ourselves.In Him, Pastor Daniel Hooper