I used to work in an office that had a diverse staff. I was one of the few Christians on staff. One year, when I was on vacation, a new coworker was hired. She was Muslim and had what she called a progressive viewpoint. While I was out, she began to hear stories about the born again Christian who sat at the desk next to hers. When we got to know each other, she told me that she had been very concerned about working with a bigot. Thanks to God, my life was a witness to His goodness, not to the negative stereotypes many people have of Christians. I wish I could say I was an instrument in her salvation, but although she hasn’t come to know the Lord, she has learned to respect the Christian faith.
In that relationship, it was gratifying to know that she didn’t speak against me because of the good life I lived for Christ. But that isn’t always the case. And many Christians have suffered deeply – even died - for the faith.
I have been mocked or ignored because I was living for Christ. I suppose that is suffering of a sort, but I’m afraid I’ve usually brought it on myself by the way I reacted to the non-Christians I worked with. Peter says to defend the faith gently and respectfully; not one of my strengths.
This passage is like a sandwich. In between two sections about suffering for the faith, it gives instructions about how to share the gospel. The center of this sandwich is compassion. I recently learned the roots of the word compassion. The prefix “com” means “with” and “passion” comes from the Latin “passus” which means to suffer. So to be compassionate means to suffer with someone.
I should be ready to give a reason for my Christian hope. But I should do it because the people I’m talking to need hope, not because I disagree with their viewpoint. As a follower of Christ I have opinions and beliefs that are counter to the world. But I have to speak about the hope I’ve found in Christ – not about the sin of others. When I do speak, I must do it gently and respectfully with a clear conscience. I need to know that I haven’t slandered, gossiped, attacked or threatened. I need to know I’ve represented Jesus.
My hope is that even though I am a sinner, I have been reconciled to God and can stand in His presence. My hope is that I am forgiven and walk in fellowship with Him. My response to the world’s wrong ideas should be that they too can be reconciled.