“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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Peter 3:15)
Taken by itself, verse 15 could well be speaking generally of apologetics. The context reveals it is about our Christian response to persecution.
Much has been made, and rightly so, of the suffering of our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters at the hands of ISIS. One of Scripture’s messages to them, and to us, is that when we are reviled for our faith in Christ, it is an opportunity to explain why we are people of such great hope, rather than people paralyzed by fear and anxiety. 1 Peter 3:15-16 is an exhortation to boldness about the gospel in the face of maltreatment by people whose eyes are blinded to God’s grace. Evangelism in the context of persecution is proclaiming our inner hope to those who have no hope.
As with everything else the Lord lifts us to, our Christian calling with regard to evangelism is a very high calling. There is no prideful defense, no haughty claiming of our rights to better treatment. Instead, Peter tells us our attitude is to be gentle and respectful, consistent with our unassailable character reflecting Christ.
Peter’s words shine brightly in our troubled times, when it is no longer difficult to imagine the stripping away of our religious freedoms resulting in our own suffering for Christ. Let us prayerfully prepare our hearts and our lives for the defense of the hope that God has placed inside us.