1 Peter 3:15-16 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
Peter has been writing throughout his letter about a Christ-like lifestyle, and this is in the natural flow of that. The thing is, if we are really living as the Holy Spirit guides us, we are going to be pretty different from most of the people around us. Some will hate us for it, because comparison with how we live makes it obvious how badly they live, and they’d rather attack us than change. However, some will see our peace and joy that come from the hope we have in Christ that Peter mentions, and their hunger to have it themselves will cause them to ask us about it. That is ultimate, “organic” evangelism. It’s not a memorized spiel, much less “hitting them over the head with a Bible,” but Peter points out that we do need to be ready. That means thinking and talking about our own experience of salvation, encountering Jesus Christ even though we’ve never seen Him with our eyes. It means having an ongoing relationship with the Holy Spirit so that it won’t be a “long distance call” when we ask Him to speak to someone through us. That done, we’ve got to be careful we don’t fall into spiritual pride so that we come across as holier-than-thou. If we will do that, then those who attack us will indeed be ashamed, and may even come to repentance and faith for salvation themselves.
I have felt for a long time that this was the most natural, effective form of evangelism, but I haven’t known well how to make it happen. Living and ministering in Japan I am seen as “other,” so even those who admire me don’t see that they could or should be like me. That has been a major frustration. Another factor in Japan is an extreme sense of personal space. With the population density, and given the fact that in traditional architecture rooms are divided by sliding paper doors, “don’t ask, don’t tell” is taken to extremes. I remember my shock several years ago when a lady in our neighborhood group committed suicide by driving her car off a cliff; no one in the neighborhood had any idea she was so overloaded with troubles. I have no real idea how to overcome those two factors with any consistency, so I pray. I pray not only that I would be more effective in communicating the Gospel, but also and especially that the believers in this church, who don’t have the “other” barrier, would be emboldened to share more and more among their families and friends. I am also to train them as disciples of Christ so that their lives will increasingly reflect Him, drawing people to His light. I can’t make that happen in my own wisdom and strength, but God can use me to bring it about, and I’ve got to stay available.
Father, I’ve preached on this passage numbers of times over the years, but still, I don’t think anyone in this church besides me has ever led someone to salvation. I ask You to change that, and to change me in whatever way necessary to make that happen. May we be a body of believers who so radiate Your love, Your grace, that people are drawn irresistibly, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!