Gentleness and Respect
Leah: Hey, guys. It’s Leah. One of the five daily activities for a marketplace missionary is to speak for yourself. Well, today, Mike’s going to dig deeper into why we need to be able to do that.
When We Speak for God
Mike: Hi, I’m Mike Henry with Follower of One. The last clause in 1 Peter 3:15 generates a variety of opinion among biblical scholars. “When we speak for God,” Peter says, “We should speak with gentle respect, 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.”
They Know It
The Greek words translated “gentleness” and “respect” contain more meaning than their English counterparts. The word translated “gentleness” could also be translated “meekness.” It describes a power under control, a confidence that isn’t assertive, a humility without weakness, or a reason without offense. A gentle or meek person is capable and they know it. They don’t have to force their strength on anyone.
The Opportunity to Speak
The word translated “respect” could also mean “fear” or “terror” or “reverence.” In this context, I believe we need to respect both the person that we’re talking to and the God who gave us the opportunity to speak. When someone else asks us for a reason for the hope that is in us, we know that God gave us the opportunity and we don’t want to blow it. We want to treat this opportunity with proper importance and reverence. Imagine being given an opportunity to speak for the God of the universe.
We Explain for Ourselves
We each follow Jesus for our own reasons. Peter tells us to explain the reason for our hope without offending the person with whom we speak. Well, how can we do this? Well, we explain for ourselves. We describe how we decided our beliefs without judging people who hold different beliefs. When we use terms like “lost” to talk about people who don’t follow Jesus, we judge them. No one thinks they’re lost. Terms like “lost” or “without hope” send the message that we’re better than they are. Remember, your friends and coworkers are not wrong.
Limit Opinions and Judgements
In the Visible Hope video, I said, “We act according to our beliefs.” Everyone does. When we state or imply someone else’s wrong, they get defensive. Their actions flow out of what they believe. You don’t like to be told you’re wrong. I certainly don’t. One key I use is to focus on using, “I and me” statements. When I speak using the first person, I limit my opinions and my judgments to me. I don’t judge anyone else, but I explain how I reached my own conclusions.
Give Them the Tools
I heard one time that people seldom believe what they’re told. Most of us believe what we discover. When we explain our faith with gentle respect, we give them the tools to discover Jesus. Our life becomes the evidence and our actions become the witness.
God always works. He’s working in the lives of our friends and our coworkers. When we speak for ourselves with gentle respect, we avoid offending others and we understand the eternal impact of our opportunity. The next time someone asks you to explain your hope, tell them why you follow Jesus and do it with gentle respect.
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