In our world today, most of us probably know of at least one person who denies the existence of God, the saving power of God, or the reality of heaven and hell; or maybe they deny all three of these points. Some people couldn’t care less about the things of God, some will ask questions, and others will initiate arguments in order to prove wrong those who do believe. As followers of Christ, what is the correct response in situations like these?
Recently, our church started a study on Christian Apologetics. I’ll steal my husband’s words from his first lesson on this topic to tell you that, although it may seem like it would, the word “apologetics” actually has nothing to do with apologizing for something you’ve done wrong. Instead, the word comes from the Greek word apologia and refers to defending our faith in God. We find the word apologia in 1 Peter 3:14b-15: “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 (apologia) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” Did you catch that? With gentleness and respect.
It should come as no surprise to us as believers that we need to know God’s Word in order to defend our belief in it. But I don’t want to focus so much on the “what” but on the “how.” Gently and respectfully.
When we have an opportunity to share God’s glorious gospel, let us always strive to lift Him up, to adorn Him, to make Him look attractive. Our goal should not be to win an argument or to make ourselves look smart. Our objective should always be to bring glory to our King. Does bickering with an unbeliever over Facebook regarding the reliability of Scripture bring glory to the Father? Let’s take it a step further: How about getting into a screaming match with an unsaved friend or family member about the sanctity of life, gun control, bathroom ordinances, or other major issues of our day? Does that make God look attractive? The answer to all of those questions is a resounding “No”. Don’t get me wrong — these are important issues. But we cannot expect those who don’t know the Lord to live as if they do know Him. As Christians, we have a tendency to be disgusted with people who don’t hold to Christian values. What else should we expect from people who deny Jesus as Lord, don’t believe the Bible is God’s Word, and haven’t been changed by God’s amazing grace? 1 Corinthians 1:18 reads, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” There’s a line in a Casting Crowns song that often echoes within my mind: “God’s gotta change her heart before he changes her shirt.” May we always approach people with the gospel in a gentle and respectful way. For it is the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation. Yes, unbelievers will be offended by God’s Word; but let’s let Christ’s gospel be the offense — not us, not our words.