“But in your hearts revere 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…” – 1 Peter 3:15
How often are you asked by another to explain something, to justify something, or to account for something? When I don’t fully grasp a comment made by someone else or if I want them to say more, I’m prone to say, “Help me to understand that better” or “Talk more about that.” It’s a habit I developed after years of interviewing people for jobs. Similarly, I’ve had folks ask (or occasionally demand) the same from me. And it’s happened in virtually every arena in my life: family, ministry, friends, past secular work roles, you name it; it happens frequently.
Sometimes those events have occurred in moments of tension and pressure, times that make it easy to be defensive or, even, for putting someone else in a defensive posture. There’s nothing that activates what the Bible calls “the flesh” like pressure imposed from external sources (or maybe, internally generated). The context in which I’m using this word, flesh, is the corruption of human nature that is revealed through the pursuit of our appetites and passions. We can see this by turning the TV to the Jerry Springer Show (is that still on?) or any of the Housewives of (Pick the City of Your Choice). The verbal violence and occasional physical violence is “the flesh” exerting itself.
Have you ever told anyone off because they were getting on your last nerve? Yes? Well, there you go – the flesh!
It’s not supposed to be that way with us, externally imposed pressure or not. An aged Peter (you remember that guy who used to be so impulsive) links revering Christ as Lord with how we respond to people, even in pressure situations. There are three places in Scripture that come to mind that helps me understand what Peter means, and they are all supplied by his fellow apostle, Paul:
- “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” – Romans 13:14
- “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” – Galatians 3:27
- “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” – Philippians 2:5
I picture Jesus standing before Pilate knowing what was before Him. The Lord’s attitude was one of gentleness and respect, the outworking of the life of the Father in Him in this otherwise dire situation. Jesus is offering grace to Pilate even as He faces death.
It’s easy to miss the fact that Peter’s letter was written at a time the infant Church was experiencing persecution. He was challenging persecuted Christians to be gracious to those doing the persecution. I believe he is saying that if we have a truly reverent attitude toward Christ, it will result in the outworking of the life of the Spirit in us as we interact with others, including in times of tension and stress. This outworking is the grace of gentleness and respect that so resembles Jesus, freely extended to those who otherwise might get a piece of our flesh-controlled minds, or even a stronger reaction. I want a transformed mind, not one controlled by my flesh.
I’m thankful for those in my life who have modeled gentleness and respect toward me, and who have shown me Jesus, even when I didn’t reciprocate quite the same way.
I need to become less, so that He can become more.
© Byron L. Hannon, 2018. All rights reserved for text content.