“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 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. 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 ESV)
When you hear the word “defense,” do you automatically think “defensive”? I do, but I know that’s not right. Clearly, God doesn’t need us to defend Him; you might as well say an elephant needs a mouse to protect him! No, God is fully capable of defending Himself if He thinks it necessary.
For us to get all excited and angry about “defending God” or “protecting Christianity” is for us to get it all backward—and frankly, it’s a bit insulting to God. It is God who protects us, not the other way around. We trust in Him to care for us, and to deal with all blasphemers, liars, and haters in His own time and way. Meanwhile, we pray for those people and show mercy to them; we don’t get into fights with them. After all, some of us were once among them.
Then what is Peter talking about here? He is talking about explaining the Good News of Jesus Christ, and doing it with gentleness and respect.
There’s a thing that happens sometimes—you may have seen it in your own life. Even when you are going through a very hard time, the Lord is with you, holding you up, keeping you going—even when you can’t feel His presence and are suffering a great deal. And then, maybe weeks or even years later, someone says to you: “I watched while you were going through X, and I don’t understand how you got through it. How did you do it? What do you have that I don’t have?”
That is an open door for you to tell them about Jesus. You don’t have to give a two-hour lecture or know all the answers to everything; all you have to say is something like “I didn’t know how I was going to make it, but I trusted Jesus to get me through. He laid down His life for us, and I know He loves us. And so I turn to Him when I’m in trouble.”
Your job is not to convince them; it’s simply to answer in a gentle, respectful way that they can understand. And then you go on living and relating to them in a way that is marked by the love of Jesus through and through. The Holy Spirit will do His work in their lives. And when He uses you to bring someone to faith—what an honor!
We Pray: Dear Father, let Your Son shine through my life and my words so that others come to trust in Him. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Originally published in The Lutheran Hour on May 10, 2023
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights reserved
1. Do you get angry when other people insult God or Christianity? How do you respond?
2. How did Jesus respond when people insulted Him during His suffering and death?
3. Is there someone in your life you can practice treating with love and gentleness? Pray for them now.