Our life history, experiences, relationships and location in this world all have some bearing on the way we view things and what we believe. We are not always aware of why we believe or prefer something. Many times it has been something that was a part of our culture or experiences and we just assumed that it was fact or that everyone or everything was the same. For example, if you were raised in the south where I am from, you are often shocked that you cannot get sweet tea anywhere else except the south. It is always fun to go with someone to a restaurant on their first visit out of the south and watch as they are appalled that the restaurant does not have sweet tea. Though sweet tea is a local taste preference example, this same mindset can also be seen in our belief systems.
As Christians, we often believe things solely because that is all we have ever been exposed to or heard about or taught. It could be because of our locale or pastor, or it could be a particular leaning of the denomination in which you were raised. We hear it taught and accept it as truth and never really take the time to understand the issue and know why we believe it the way we do. There are so many varied beliefs on many topics in the church. It is important for us to be willing to look at these issues for ourselves so we can better have an understanding of what we believe. “Because” is rarely a sufficient answer.
The apostle Peter admonished the people he was writing to in 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT) “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.” He tells them it is important for them to know what they believe and why. I think there are three things from these two verses that will help us understand why we should know what we believe.
Someone Will Ask
Peter says that we should be prepared for people to ask us about our beliefs. He didn’t say we had to know so we could shove it down someone’s throat, but he did say we should be prepared for people to ask. People will often ask us about our faith. It may not happen everyday, but there will be moments when they will question why you do something or believe something. They may see you act a certain way or see the way you respond to a particular situation and it may create a question in them. When people are curious enough to ask a question it is a great time for you to be able to share your faith. A question means they are open to hearing what you have to say. Someone you know may also experience life change or tragedy that causes them to seek your advice about faith.Throughout your walk with Christ you will be presented with opportunities to answer questions about the hope that you have and what you believe.
Always Be Ready To Explain
Always can be an intimidating word. It is a word that can often be inflammatory when used in the wrong situation. The reason we should always be ready to explain is so that we are not caught off guard and we are able to clearly share what is important. To be ready requires preparation. We should not wait until someone asks before we begin to learn and understand what we believe and what is important. This will require commitment on our part to study and learn of our faith. When you are prepared, you can explain clearly and succinctly our hope in Christ. One of the most effective ways to explain is to offer your own personal story of how you came to faith and how it has impacted your life; possibly even some simple biblical principles that you have applied and the affect they had on you or your family. People’s knowledge of you will help them to also understand your faith.
Be Gentle and Respectful
One of the dangers of questions about faith is that sometimes people are attempting to bait us into a debate instead of understanding our point of view. This will often cause us to be defensive, especially if we are unprepared. Sometimes the lack of preparation will cause us to bristle at a question about our faith even when the person is asking out of genuine curiosity. Peter says it is important for us to be prepared at all times so that we can respond gently and respectfully. When we respond to questions in this way, our impact and influence increases. Our response will be better received and will create more change than if we attack or are angry or abrasive. Preparation calms our response because we are comfortable with the topic we are discussing and feel confident in the answers that we are giving. We should work diligently to keep our responses about faith gentle and respectful.
Knowing what you believe and why you believe it is not just for your benefit. It is also for the benefit of others. People will ask you about your faith. You should prepare yourself and be ready to explain. When you are prepared and ready, it will allow you to be gentle and respectful and your response will have the greatest impact. Over the next several weeks at Open Door we will talk about the basics of our faith. This will be a great time for you to prepare. However, there is no need to wait for Sunday. Begin today. Open your Bible and begin to understand why you believe what you believe. It will be an asset to you and a benefit to those around you.