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…
How has your relationship to Christ changed you? How are you different from your non-Christian friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers? Do you blend in with the crowd or stand out as uniquely different?
The context of today’s focus scripture involves Christian behavior that results in people “who speak maliciously”(v16) against you. When we are rightly connected to Christ then His presence in our lives will result in different behavior and thinking which can give cause to giving “the reason for the hope” that we have. “Why do you believe and why don’t you do the things that everybody else is doing?” When such questions arise we should “be prepared to give an answer.”
To give the reason for your hope you must set apart Christ as Lord.
Peter instructs that we are to “Set apart Christ as Lord.” More than just dwelling in your heart, Jesus is to have a special place in your heart, where He resides as the supreme authority over your life. “In your hearts,” means that the Lordship of Christ must come from the depths of your being anchored in genuine commitment to His rule, commands, direction, and instruction. Every thought, word, and deed is surrendered to His authority. Because that surrender comes from your heart it is a matter of “want to” as opposed to “have to.” Christ is the object of your love, adoration, and gratitude for all He has done and continues to do for you.
When we have, in fact, “set apart Christ as Lord” in our hearts, then we will be different from the world around us. Different behavior, different character, different world view, a different way of processing information, different thinking, etc.
To give the reason for your hope means you are different because of your relationship to Christ.
In verse 16, Peter refers to “those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ.” Since you are different because of your relationship to Christ, there will be those who challenge those differences. Those challenges may come in the form of ridicule and scorn because their unredeemed minds cannot grasp the reason for your different behavior.
When you “set apart Christ as Lord” you are very selective in the choices you make. You are careful about your choices of entertainment, the way you party, the friends you keep, the way you speak, the way you dress, and the way you approach work and play. Morality and decency permeate your character making you stand out in this evil and wicked world. Some may say that “you think you are better than everybody else.” (you don’t) Others may be challenged by your good behavior because it reveals their wickedness. Darkness is exposed by the light.
Some years ago when I determined to leave a career in radio for ministry, I was placed in an embarrassing and humiliating situation. The radio station was throwing a party for its advertisers at an upscale restaurant, and I was expected to attend. While standing with a group of advertisers my departure for the ministry entered into the conversation. Then one of the radio sales reps asked, “Why do you believe all that (blank)?” I was shocked by his question because he had always been good to me, and I had even considered him a friend. The group was silenced by his question, and all eyes were affixed on me as they awaited my response. “Because I believe it is what God wants me to do,” I said.
To give the reason for your hope will sometimes result in ridicule and scorn.
Obedience to God will cause us to do things and change things others may find difficult to understand. “How come you don’t go out and party with us anymore?” “Why don’t you hang out with the old gang anymore?” “Why have you decided to do that with your life?”
Sometimes you may be laughed at or cursed at for your faith. Other times you may be left off a guest list or passed over for a promotion because your belief system has caused you to be different. I’ve worked at places where job promotions went to the people who went drinking together after work. Regardless of the response Peter tells us to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
“Be prepared” refers, not only to what we will say, but also to the expectation that there will be such challenges to our faith. If you’ve never been challenged for your faith views then there probably isn’t anything all that different about you. We are called to be “in the world” but not “of the world.” We are called to be holy which means that we are uniquely different, set apart unto God for His good purposes.
Give the reason for your hope, but be respectful of others.
So, when those challenges to our beliefs come, how are we to respond? Peter writes, “do this with gentleness and respect.” He doesn’t say that we are to be argumentative or haughty to the point of appearing to be better than everybody else. Our response should be marked by a gentle spirit and respectful demeanor. Peter doesn’t elaborate on what should be said…but on how it should be said. The situation will dictate the response and the Holy Spirit will aid us in our use of appropriate words.
If your behavior has been changed because you have truly surrendered to the Lordship of Christ then you will have a solid understanding of what and why you believe. I recommend that every Christian learns to share their faith through a solid evangelism/discipleship program. You can never know exactly what curves may be tossed your way, but you can be armed with a solid understanding of biblical principles to share in such times.
Don’t do as I did once upon a time. There was a particularly annoying co-worker who always wanted to debate theology. He had some views that were just “way out there.” One day as he was telling me that my faith was misplaced, I had taken all that I could take, and I yelled out in anger, “You are going to hell!” Even if my statement was accurate, I had failed to be gentle and respectful. My angry response ended our discussions and never again did I have an opportunity to share my faith with him.
Peter is saying of our faith… “live it but don’t flaunt it.” “Be different but be respectful of others.” And “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” The way you live and the way you respond to that lost person could be what opens their hearts to Jesus as the Lord of their life.
For more on this topic, check out this article: Most Likely to Go to Heaven
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 1 (January – March) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.