Focal Passage: 1 Peter
In the city where I
attended divinity school a certain man preached regularly on a busy downtown street
corner. He didn’t have a pulpit: he paced. He didn’t have a microphone: he
yelled. His words were as hostile as his tone.
He held his oversized
Bible open in his left hand, the pages flapping in the breeze.
The extended index
finger of his right hand pointed sometimes at the text, sometimes at the sky,
often at us.
People scurried by with
their heads down, gazing at their feet. Most gave him a wide berth. Nobody
stopped to listen, not even me.
Why not? Maybe we were
disinterested at best, pagans at worst. Besides, he was way too angry.
Mainly, though, it’s
that he was talking at us, not to us, and certainly not with us.
And what about the lady
who rings my doorbell on Saturday morning, wanting to give me a two-minute
presentation of her version of the gospel? Does she really think she can change
my mind — and capture my heart — when she doesn’t even know my name? When she
doesn’t have a clue what’s going on in my life?
Peter has a better
idea: “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account
for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (3:15).
For someone to “call
you to account” means that they’ve seen enough of you, and the way you live, to
ask questions. Sharing the faith starts with living the life.
“With gentleness and
reverence” means that you’ve seen enough of them to treat them kindly and
respectfully — to know them, to understand them, even to care for them.
Evangelism isn’t just about talking. It’s also about listening.
You have to earn the right
Our lesson mentions two
contexts: those who persecute us (3:13-18) and those we used to run wild with
Negative examples, to
be sure, but at least we know something about each other. Real faith isn’t
communicated in a vacuum. It takes a relationship.
Don’t get sidetracked
by the hard questions in the text: the “spirits in prison” and the “days of
Noah” (3:19-20), and whether baptism really “saves you” (3:21).
If we’re not careful,
they’ll just distract us from the main issue:
Is my faith revealed in
the way I live?
Is it a positive
influence on those around me?
If someone asks about
it, do I have an answer?