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Being Ready to Give a Defense for the Hope that is within You

October 3, 2014

defending-the-faith

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. (I Peter 3:15 ESV)

The Internet empowers Christians to express their faith openly and freely without the same intimidation and fear of rejection that a face-to-face encounter might produce. I am not saying that Christians won’t experience negative emotions when challenged, but there is a greater sense of safety inside the home far from the person being addressed. That makes the Internet an excellent tool for evangelism. Nevertheless, Christians have to be very cautious that they walk in compassion speaking the truth in love at all times particularly when they run across someone’s hatred of Christianity. Whether a challenge comes from someone who is really seeking answers or someone who is just being ugly, it doesn’t matter. This presents the perfect opportunity to show the world the mercy, love, and grace of God. Hopefully, while also sharing a carefully thought out and well researched answer as well. The same is required even if a Christian brother or sister says something that doesn’t line up with one’s interpretation of Scripture.

What I would like to talk about next is the temptation to say something spiteful in reaction to such a challenge. Simply because people can get away with expressing their anger online without fear of suffering any social repercussions, it doesn’t mean we should do it. God holds us to the same accountability when we are hiding behind a login name as when we are face-to-face with someone.

Why Not Just Blast them with the Truth?

Speaking-the-TruthSometimes Christians, especially newbies, will take an Old Testament tone with people. While the prophets may have sounded harsh when God was warning His children of upcoming disciplinary actions if they didn’t change their ways, He only did this during times of extreme disobedience and only as a last ditch effort save them. When Christians do this today, the world is watching. Not only are they not reflecting the grace and mercy God provided through the New Covenant. But we are in a time unlike any other time in history. Our interactions online are seen by hundreds, sometimes tens of thousands or even millions of people. Consequently, our responsibility for our words is that much higher.

The apostle, Paul, said we are always to “speak the truth in love” to one another (Ephesians 4:15). Walking in love and patience towards others is what fosters true maturity. When our faith in a particular point of doctrine is challenged, we are presented with an equal opportunity for growth.

The mature response to the challenges we face would be to use these conflicts to our faith as motivation to dig deeper for the answers. In seeking answers for the person who has presented us with this challenge, we become better informed and more able to “give a defense” for the hope that is within us.

However, wounding others with our bitter frustrations will stoke up the fires of anger in people’s hearts. This can only serve to repel them away from Christ, not attract them towards Him, as follows:

“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35 NKJV)

Be Like Jesus

In other words, the world judges Christianity and Jesus by how they see Christians treating others.

Furthermore, creating a wound in the heart of the person we are addressing, is equal to physically harming a person. How can that be, you may ask? Jesus said just calling someone a fool puts us in danger of hell fire (see Matthew 5:21-23).

If you study psychology, it will make much more sense why that is. Social psychologists say that we are essentially guilty of murder when we shame others. In a nutshell, our psyche, which comprises of our identity, self-concept, and self-worth, are deeply tied to the views of others. Therefore, when we call someone a fool for believing the way they do, we are potentially murdering their soul. Watch for my next article explaining how this happens.

With all of that said, I do understand the impulse to react in anger. It can be very hard to hold one’s tongue under some circumstances, especially when Christians are younger and are eager to tell people what they have discovered (this can even be hard for older Christians sometimes). So it helps a lot to go deeper into understanding the mechanisms behind why we may react that way. To learn more about the dynamics at work behind the scenes in our psyche, read my next article (due out October 8th, link forthcoming).

Overcoming Negative Reactions

There are various reasons for encountering a negative reaction when witnessing to someone. The most common one is that Christians are often persecuted. But that is just something we Christians need prepare ourselves for. To overcome this, it helps to understand a few things.

One, taking the risk to open up and share our faith leaves our hearts vulnerable. So when someone reacts in anger towards us, especially someone we care about, we experience pain. We often feel exposed and rejected for our good intentions. We may even feel humiliated particularly if the person is immature and begins taunting us. Sometimes, the discomfort experienced by this shame (having experienced soul murder), can even put younger Christians at risk of losing their faith (learn more about this in the next article). So it is natural for those weak in their faith to want to conform to the world at this point in time. Conforming to the world may give them a sense of power and strength during a time when they are feeling their weakest.

If Christians don’t seek to bring back homeostasis to themselves by giving in, they may strike out against the person presenting the challenge in order to reestablish the balance of power they feel they have just lost. Experiencing rejection often leaves us feeling like a failure or diminished in some way. But this will less likely if we are well equipped to provide others with the specific answers they are seeking. If we are ill equipped, however, they can easily twist our words and make us sound silly (the Gospel is foolishness to those who are wise in their own eyes). This can be quite a humiliating experience. So it isn’t so unusual for the children of God to strike out saying, “After all, I’m God’s kid, I have the truth! Plus they needed to know how evil they were being.”

I know. Sometimes ya just wanna throw around a few “Woe, unto them…” scriptures when you get frustrated right? For example this one from Isaiah 5:21 is always fun to use, “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!

I realize that these feelings can be very difficult to sort out in the heat of the moment. It may feel like we have come under attack and, therefore, must attack back. While it may be true, we are, indeed, facing spiritual warfare and, therefore, it is only natural to have this sort of defensive reaction, we are told that this spiritual warfare is not to be waged against flesh and blood. So hopefully what I have to share with you here will help some resist that urge.Defend the Faith

Check Your Motivation

It is one thing to want to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others on the Internet out of love. It is quite another if we are being motivated by the need to prove we are right. Yes, we do need to give a defense for the hope that is within us. Bit we also need to consider our motivation for taking on the conflict before replying.

If we are coming from a heart that seeks elevation in order to feel superior over others, the answer will come off cold and haughty. They will know that we are not concerned about them. Many times that is, at least part of the motivation.

Needing to use such opportunities to get the upper hand over people proves that we are likely still in bondage to the world’s opinions of us and have not yet learned how to stand on Christ’s righteousness as we are instructed to do. In other words, when we enter the argument to prove that we are right, we are basically still trying to earn our way into Heaven.

In reading this, if you have just discovered that answering this person is fulfilling a need to prove you are right, that doesn’t mean you can’t answer the challenge they have prepared for you. Just go into it asking God to help you. Carefully weigh your words to make sure that you are saying them in love. Then, get your “need to be right” healed. Jesus wants to wash us clean of that need with His mercy and grace. He wants to set us free from a performance-based form of acceptance.

Being Prepared to Give an Intelligent Answer

gods-not-dead

How do you know God is not dead? Be ready with a convincing answer. Don’t merely tell people it is just because you know it to be true or saw Jesus one day. Other Christians may take you at your word because of their inner witness. But don’t be surprised if those closest to you, even your own family, won’t take you at your word. They rarely do. For some reason, those who know our heart best often don’t. Now you know how God felt when Adam and Eve didn’t give Him the benefit of the doubt. This hard lesson teaches us that we need to study Christian apologetics. We need to arm ourselves with knowledge to provide answers to those who ask. We also need to practice sharing our testimony with others so we get better at it.

Some Christians are just not as adept at speaking nor as knowledgeable about their subject area as they would like to be. But we need to practice, so sometimes falling flat on our face is the only way. We need to get a better feel how to debate others. But it helps to learn a bit more about giving persuasive speeches. Usually what we will learn from these experiences is that we need to gain more knowledge if we are to become a really intelligent debater. It is really important to get a better understanding of your faith from a variety of angles. Learn what people think about your faith. What is the scientific point of view? What do Mormons think? How about Methodists? Do I agree or disagree? And why?

But when a debate brings up difficult or bitter emotions that make you squirm, then you need to examine what is making you feel that way. This will help you work in conjunction with the Holy Spirit to ascertain how to get that part of your psyche healed, delivered, and transformed. Once again, watch for my next article for how to do this. I will link to it when it is done but you can subscribe to get a notification reminder.

Don’t be dismayed by these challenges. Ponder the things covered in this article then decide what it is that you need to do in order to stand up to the challenges to your faith with peace, love, and clarity when your faith comes under fire. Some resources that will help are as follows:

Christian Apologetics

Christian apologetics is what is is called when one learns how to defend their faith. A good starting point for this would be to check out the YouTube videos and books of these credible scholars:

  • Lee Strobel (former atheist and investigative reporter)
  • Dr. John Lennox (Oxford Professor of Mathematics)
  • Chuck Missler (Engineer/information scientist, former CEO & member of gov’t think tanks)
  • Peter Hitchins (brother of famous atheist Christopher Hitchens)

Here is a quick video of Dr. John Lennox for a sample of what to expect:

Dealing with Anger and the Need to be Right

Whether your issue is anger, the need to be right, pride, low self-esteem or you are just searching for a good Bible study to help yourself or others to get well on their way to being transformed into the image and likeness of Christ, this website, as well as the following should help. The book showcased in the right column of this blog is entitled, Accelerated Transformation: Maturity, Intimacy, and Unity through Emotional Healing. It combines my expertise as an adult educator (Master’s Degree #1) and as a conflict negotiator/mediator (Master’s Degree #2) and my thirty-five years of mentoring/coaching new disciples in Christ to help believers at any stage of development to walk in greater victory, freedom, and power. Learn more about it by clicking the link. above, and going to my other website: The Spotless Bride. Again, the upcoming article will also help (link forthcoming).

I have not found many people online who write about such topics. If you found this article helpful, please share it with others using the links below. You can subscribe to be notified when new articles come out. Either way, let me hear your thoughts in the comments as well. Thank you!

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© Tracey Nelson, M.Ed.

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by The Spotless Bride Ministries.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Tracey Nelson, M.Ed., author Accelerated Transformation , © Oct. 3, 2014 Website: The Spotless Bride Blog; (Some images, songs, & videos not owned by author).

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Marilyn permalink
    October 20, 2014 5:51 pm

    This has been very helpful information.

    • November 4, 2014 6:12 pm

      I am glad to hear it. You can subscribe to get informed of new articles as they come out. Only one email will be delivered to you informing you when I write a new article. Thanks again for letting me know your thoughts! Blessings.

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