The world’s best-known evangelism verse is familiar to most Christian’s but I wanted to address what I think is an example of overzealousness. Sometimes.
Let’s look at the verse and see what it says and what it doesn’t say.
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, 1 Peter 3:15
We’ve heard this before, many of us have it memorized because if you run in evangelistic circles you must always be ready. We should always, and forever be proclaiming Christ in every possible circumstance, passing tracts and leaving an aroma of Christ wherever we go and in everything we do, correct?
I don’t believe that is what this text teaches us. And in this, I believe at times it can actually bring shame to Christ’s name instead of glory. Of course, I want to be careful here.
This is dangerous ground because I’m not saying we should “never” or “rarely” speak of Christ, we should “never” or “rarely” pass out tracts or “never” or “rarely” do evangelism work. I’d say more fall into this camp. But there is a sub-culture, and in fact, I’m part of that sub-culture that is so boldly geared toward evangelism that if they are not engaged in it, 24/7 they carry a burden of guilt. This is where legalistic tendencies come into play.
They’ll quote Spurgeon, they’ll quote Calvin or Washer and justify boorishness in how they handle themselves. Again, not always, but sometimes. Discernment can be lacking.
I want to clarify, I’m not a Hyper-Calvinist. I believe God uses the means of evangelism and it’s a God-given means to save sinners. Yes, and amen, but there is also a tact to take at times. A manner of decent behavior given a situation. All of it flows from a trust in God to save His people, but a balance between our arrogance thinking it has to be “us” that are the means that saved someone.
While I believe and agree that an unregenerate person cannot be pushed further from God, I believe that our mannerisms can offend beyond what they were currently offended. Yes, I’ve been accused of it. And yes, I’ve probably done it countless times and such is a reason for this post. Because as Peter said, it should be done with gentleness and respect.
This is really an amazing quote by John Calvin and in far less words and far more eloquently gives my thoughts:
…for we then really honor God, when neither fear nor shame hinders us from making a profession of our faith. But Peter does not expressly bid us to assert and proclaim what has been given us by the Lord everywhere, and always and among all indiscriminately, for the Lord gives his people the spirit of discretion, so that they may know when and how far and to whom it is expedient to speak. He bids them only to be ready to give an answer, lest by their sloth and the cowardly fear of the flesh they should expose the doctrine of Christ, by being silent, to the derision of the ungodly. The meaning then is, that we ought to be prompt in avowing our faith, so as to set it forth whenever necessary, lest the unbelieving through our silence should condemn the religion we follow.
Always being prepared doesn’t say we must always speak and herein lies the guilt and the sometimes over aggressive nature of those inclined toward evangelism. By all means be ready, but if at times you go to a restaurant and don’t pass out a tract to everyone there or don’t preach the gospel at every family gathering it will be okay. Sometimes you must simply behave like a Christian. The way you live your life says a lot about you. I will address the hypocrisy of life in a future post, but for now let’s exercise good discernment and still “always be prepared”.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7