In life we cannot go very many minutes without running up against someone who has an opinion contrary to our own. We might see it in the paper, hear it on the radio, watch it on the television, possibly absorb it from our kids, sense it in advertisements, and glean it from clerks at the store. The feeling of wanting to stop the world at some point and set others straight is a common experience, especially when we feel like we are in touch with the heart of God.
I too have to cool myself down on minor or even major confrontations to my values. The verses of 1 Peter 3:15-16 have had special meaning to me lately. You may have it memorized, but hear it anew: “But in your hearts revere 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, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander (- NIV).” Historically for me I’ve placed these verses as a shield about me for when I feel formally attacked for my beliefs. It can certainly be applied that way, but more often in my spirit I feel attacked by informal encroachments upon my values. I think there is something here for me in terms of how I handle myself in those moments.
The part that sticks out to me is “do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience”. If in my spirit and attitude or words I fight back hoping to dominate as though I have an argument to win, then I lose. I need first to have gentleness, respect and a clear conscience. The verse says I am to be ready to give a reason, but it is not my duty to convince an opponent. My opponents are ultimately accountable to God themselves. If my words convince them of my position I will indeed be pleased. But if my words are void of gentleness, respect and a clear conscience, then something is truly wrong. Dare I forget the challenge to ‘love your enemies’? The internal attitudes reflecting the fruit of the Spirit in the inevitable challenges of opponents speaks volumes for the Kingdom.
Another challenge in these verses is to be sure your behaviour does not give others the privilege of slander against me or against the Lord Himself. In the moments we feel challenged are the very times we need to breathe, pray, request the Spirit’s filling, then respond with attitude, then think of what words God might give. The truth sets us free, but it does not set us free to release attitudes that reflect badly on His name or His work within us.
May God help us all to be known for shining forth ‘love, joy, peace, patience ….”
Your co-worker, Dennis