It is easy to get disheartened when sharing the good news of the Gospel with those who respond negatively. The Christian's prayer is that the hearer will come to a saving relationship with Christ. However, too many times the immediate result is not only to have the hearer reject the good news, but reject us along with it. I Peter 3:13-16 should be of some encouragement concerning this subject.
"Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled…" (v. 13-14). This passage begins with a word of comfort. First, it reminds us to be cognizant of whom it is who is coming against us. Those with whom we debate are usually hostile to God and, if someone is hostile to God, there is a very good chance they will, at least initially, be hostile to those who come in His name. Remember, unbelievers do not have the presence of the Holy Spirit giving them the peace and patience that these types of discussions require. It is up to the believer to maintain a loving attitude no matter what insults or ridicule may be slung at him.
This brings us to another point, the way to be prepared for these kinds of debates, "…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy…" (v. 15a). We should constantly cultivate our relationship with Jesus, so that in any situation we will respond as He would. Throughout our debates and discussions with unbelievers, as well as every moment of our lives, believers must follow Jesus as our guiding example. We are never justified in being crass, mocking, insulting, or hurtful in any way when attempting to share the truth of God with anyone. We must conduct ourselves as Jesus would if He were us.
Peter continues with a mandate for the defense of our beliefs, "…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…" (v. 15b). The Christian must be to explain why he believes what he believes. God gave us brains with which to think, He provided evidence of His existence in nature (Romans 1:18-23), and He supplies specific revelation of Himself through His prophets and apostles recorded in the Bible (II Peter 1:19-21). The believer should prepare to defend the Gospel (Jude 1:3). This is done through Bible study, prayer, meditation on the Word of God, and making use of the many helpful apologetics schools, courses, and websites available to us.
We are to be bold in our defense of our faith, "…yet do it with gentleness and respect…" (v. 15c). Too many times Christians resort to the same crude, sarcastic, ridiculing attitude that the non-believer exhibits in debates or discussions. Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen reminds us that, "Ridicule, anger, sarcasm, and name-calling are inappropriate weapons of apologetical defense. A Spirit-filled apologist will evidence the fruits of the Spirit in his approach to others." (Always Ready, American Vision, 1996. p. 251) This means that we are to be so filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit that it is really He who is communicating His message through us.
Even when we do our best to convince unbelievers of the truth of the Gospel, they may still reject it. However, if we have conducted ourselves as Christ directed, we should feel no shame or guilt over the results of our attempt. Peter encourages us once more by reminding us that we should live our lives, "…having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame" (v. 16).
Therefore, we are to be faithful to share the Gospel with others, defending it when necessary. First Peter 3:13-16 tells us that we should be fearless in standing for the Truth, gentle in our methods, and confident that whatever the outcome of our debates or discussions may be, if we have conducted ourselves as Jesus leads, we need not be ashamed or defeated. In the end, the Truth will be victorious.
(All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version of the Bible)