15 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, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
~ 1 Peter 3:15-16
Do you struggle to start a conversation about Jesus?
I’m not asking about your conversations with fellow sisters and brothers in Christ (though, you may indeed struggle there as well!). I’m asking about your conversations with friends, family, and acquaintances in your day-to-day life. It can be difficult to move the conversation towards Jesus.
Admittedly, we should find it easy! What better topic of discussion? Is there a more glorious and worthy person to direct our thoughts and attention? And, if we have indeed been saved by God’s grace and for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10) then how can we stay silent about the excellencies of what He has done for us in Christ Jesus our Lord?
Yet, it can be difficult. In a world that has yet to see the risen Lord revealed to all, we can be met with puzzlement, suspicion, and even hostility. The Christian is in the world, but not of the world, and will stand out. Indeed, the Christian should stand out as different (1 Peter 2:4-10). We should not consider it strange when others find the message of Jesus, the Gospel, unusual.
In 1 Peter 3:15-16, Christians are commanded to always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us for why we believe what we believe, specifically about the hope we have in Christ. We are to do this with gentleness and respect, and out of a heart the honours Christ as Lord. We should also give our listeners no reasons to take issue with our conduct, but should exemplify good behaviour. With these verses as an inspiration, let me offer two questions that can help you start a conversation about Jesus.
Firstly: ‘what do you mean by that?’ In everyday conversation with fellow students or workmates, terms and topics are thrown around. A non-threatening question that invites a person to expand on their thoughts is this one. ‘What do you mean by that?’ Put another way, you could ask ‘what do you think about that?’ The idea is for you to listen carefully to what a person believes, or understands, about some topic.
The second question is this: ‘why do you believe that?’ This can serve as a follow-up to the first question, or be asked straight up. It invites a person to give you a reason for what they have said they think or believe. The conversation can move towards a point where you can ask other questions in response to what is said, inviting them to continue sharing.
Listening first, and allowing others to speak, is how we can respect others. It seems obvious to say, and yet at times I know I need to be reminded of that myself! But it also means that the person you are speaking to can then turn around and ask you something to the effect of:
So, what do you believe about this?
Why do you believe what you believe?
Either question is an opening that allows you to speak about your hope. The person has invited you to speak. Now, you can share honestly, respectfully, gently, and faithfully what it is that you believe about some topic and why you believe it. As Christians, the Lordship of Jesus Christ extends over the entirety of our lives, so there isn’t a topic of conversation that could come up that can’t be discussed with relevance to our faith and witness in Him.
Taking this approach does mean that you need to have some answers for the questions that are posed and topics that are discussed. But my advice is to never feel the need to have answers for everything. The goal is to respectfully have a conversation – not win a debate. The source of all that is true and wise about our faith is God’s word and not our brains. Perhaps that realisation would strengthen our resolve and heal our evangelistic paralysis.
Ultimately, we should be bold and courageous to speak about our God and King who was not ashamed to die for us. How can we be ashamed to testify of Him? But we can pray that God would give us opportunities, just as Paul instructed the Colossians to (Colossians 4:2-6), and that He would also help us let the message of Christ be ever-present on our lips.