Answering Your Community (pt. 3)

(Note:  This is part 3 of 3 in a series.  Read part 1 and part 2)

As we’ve seen, 1 Peter 3 tells us that in order to answer our generation we must prepare our hearts and our answers. However, it isn’t enough just to be prepared to give an answer; you also have to do it the right way.

We all know that sometimes the things we say can be skewed because the way we say them. What kind of approach should accompany our presentation of the truth? Verses 15-16 tell us that we should give our answer “with meekness, fear, [and] a good conscience.”

To approach our generation with meekness means we are to be gentle. This style lacks aggressiveness, forcefulness, or arrogance. In other words, we aren’t to be getting into people’s faces. We aren’t to be ramming the Gospel down people’s throat. That kind of “evangelism” has no place in the kingdom of God! Answering our generation isn’t about us using the force of our personalities to convince people. We must be faithful to sow and leave the results to God. Salvation belongs to the Lord. The order of the day is courtesy, considerateness, and humility. We are to show the love of Christ as we speak the truth of Christ.

This should be a real encouragement to those of us who do not have an outgoing personality. There may be a tendency to think that you can’t be effective in evangelism and outreach if you’re not an out-going person. But that simply isn’t true. In fact, if you have a “live-wire” personality you must allow the Lord to temper that with humility, lest you come across the wrong way.

The passage also says we are to approach our generation with fear, or respect. There are a couple of ways we can apply this. We should have respect for the people we are talking to because they are made in the image of God. There should also be a respect for the seriousness of the subject – we are dealing with matters of eternity. Probably the best way to take this idea, in the context, is seeing it as a fear, reverence, or respect for God (as opposed to the fear of man, see vv.14-15a).

Finally, verse 16 speaks of having a good conscience. The idea here is personal integrity before God. Walking with God and keeping short accounts with him will keep your conscience clean. This in turn will free you from feelings of hypocrisy and enable you to effectively defend the truth. By the way, giving your answer the world in this way (a good testimony) will put those who slander you to shame, because they know their accusations are baseless (v.16b).

Instead of shrinking back in fear from a culture that is radically opposed to Christianity, God calls us to prepare ourselves to answer the generation in which we live. We’ll get into more specifics later on. But for now, hang on to these three general points from 1 Peter: In order to answer our generation, we must prepare our hearts, our answers, and our approach.