GENTLENESS AND RESPECT
By Lydia Sheldon, American Bible Society
Lord, thank you for the life-changing power of your Word. Help me to obey your Word, so that my ways may please you and lead others to you.
1 PETER 3:15–16
But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect. Keep your conscience clear, so that when you are insulted, those who speak evil of your good conduct as followers of Christ will become ashamed of what they say.
In a dark courtyard, Peter is terrified that people will find out he’s a follower of Jesus. Not the chief priest, not the captain of the Roman guard, but a servant girl asks, then accuses Peter of being in Jesus’s camp. “I do not know this man of whom you speak,” Peter insists (Mark 14:71 ESV). And then, weeps bitterly. A much older Peter writes with compassion to dispersed Jesus-followers: Don’t be afraid to tell people you’re with Jesus. Peter knows from experience the pressure that can occur in the moment, maybe leaving you with a guilty conscience. That feeling of not knowing what to say, or of having said the wrong thing. That nervous conviction that if you align yourself with Jesus, you’ll be misunderstood. That urge to defend yourself, to protect your reputation. That sinking knowledge that you were embarrassed of Jesus.
For these situations, Peter advises: “Have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord.” Be prepared to explain, even defend, your hope
of what may seem preposterous—an eternal inheritance. And, do it with gentleness and respect.
Before we get to that moment—that conversation which might happen
when and where we least expect—we need to be prepared. We won’t be so concerned with what people think of us if we are concerned with Jesus’s authority. “Honor Christ the Lord as holy,” Peter says (verse 15 ESV), knowing that to be convinced of Jesus’s holiness and power is to be invincible.
It also precludes any need to be right. Honoring Christ the Lord as holy means we don’t need to prove a point. We don’t need to win, because it’s not about us. With a “tender heart and a humble mind” (1: Peter 3:8 ESV), we’re free to listen.
Imagine what “gentleness and respect” would look like in conversation with a co-worker, friend, or someone you’re sitting next to on a plane. (God has worked through such conversations countless times!) You could start by listening. You might even spend most of the conversation doing just that… listening. You could ask questions, and listen some more. Keep in mind there’s no rush to give the right answer. You could admit that you’ve had doubts, too. You could talk about God who “loved the world so much” that he sent Jesus
to die for us (John 3:16). God’s Spirit would be at work in you as you gently, respectfully, describe your hope. You have nothing to fear, and everything to offer.
What neighbor, friend, relative, or coworker needs to hear about your hope? Could you gently and respectfully open a conversation with questions about what they believe and let the Spirit guide you from there?
Lord, fill me with hope in you. Give me opportunity to talk about this hope. Help me to respond with gentleness and respect toward those who are curious about you.