By Anthony Knight
One of the most challenging positions to be in is to listen to your loved one (spouse, family member, friend, etc.) be attacked because of their character or recent actions. Living in a world with people who are imperfect and who have different personalities is an immediate recipe for disagreements, hurt feelings, and negative opinions of others. Some people have personalities that bring out the best in you, and sadly there are some personalities that will bring out the worst. It is all too common to be in a position where you hear someone say something negative about someone with whom you are close. The relationship you may have with a close one is built off of love, trust, laughter, and respect but everyone may not have those same experiences. They critique, say hurtful things, and doubt the genuineness of the person’s character. As you hear this your loyalty and love will cause you to step up and defend their character. You will say things like, “maybe he or she didn’t mean it in that way.” If you are bold you will stop them in their tracks and say boldly to them, “do not speak down on them or if you have an issue you should take it up with them.” Regardless of how one handles a situation like this, the trust, loyalty, and love you have for someone will cause you to step up and defend their character when it is being challenged.
This is a natural thing we humans do. We do not only do it with people but we also do it with our favorite hobbies, foods, tv shows, movies, and athletic teams. In other words, we are natural defenders of the things or people we love. Everyone has been in some debate about who has the best pizza or burger, which tv show has the best storyline, which athlete is more skilled, or which actor is the funniest. We engage in these conversations because when we love something, we want everyone else to love it as well. When we find out our favorite is someone else’s least favorite, we go into defense mode. It’s how we are wired as humans. What we are emotionally connected to will be what we are willing to defend and the deeper the love, the more passion you will show in defending it.
Sadly the willingness to defend the Christian faith is not always practiced among our Christian body. Many Christians are more comfortable defending why their favorite movie, hobby, food, or sports team is greater than someone else’s but cannot do the same about the beautiful truths Scripture brings to us. Sadly many Christians will go to bat for their best friend who is imperfect and sinful before they will go to bat for a perfect and holy God. There are many reasons why this is so and this article’s aim is to unpack three problems that are at the root of every Christian who struggles with defending what he or she proclaims to love which is Jesus Christ, the only way into Heaven.
1 Peter 3:15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
Discipled by the World
Living in a world that is promoting a culture of relativism, where you can believe whatever you want, has leaked its way into the church. Although the church cannot make someone believe in the Gospel, the church is not supposed to sit quietly and indifferently. True disciples of Christ go to the world and preach the good news (Matthew 28). Through the preaching of the word those who are not God’s children will have objections and concerns. This is a natural process as one is hearing the Gospel. 1 Corinthians says:
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.
If someone is walking in their sins and has never experienced God’s saving grace then you can expect some type of objections. Their objections will consist of some form of rebellion against God’s character, authority, and holiness. They will either ignore His existence, question His goodness, or doubt His love. This is when the Christian should take 1 Peter 3 into action. As they rebel, ignore, doubt, and question, the Christian should defend their God. This will not happen if you have been discipled by the world to believe you should not go around spreading your beliefs. This is the exact opposite of the Great Commission. The greatest mission God’s people can give their life is the spreading of the good news of the Gospel. With this spreading comes defending, and this defending comes from one’s loyalty and love for Christ. Just like it is hard to sit back and ignore while someone is criticizing your loved one, it should be hard to sit back while someone is criticizing your God. As followers of Christ, we are called to engage those who are lost not to sit back and keep our beliefs to ourselves.
Living life with false expectations will make you feel like a constant failure. This is the same as the Christian faith. If you expect to never be tempted by sin again because you had an amazing experience with Christ where you felt renewed, replenished, and transformed, then you will feel terrible about yourself the next time you sin. Scripture tells us we will be free from sin, but not on this side of eternity. If you feel like God will never let you experience pain because He loves you and cares for you, that is another false expectation that will lead you into misery and feeling like faith failed you. Jesus clearly warns us we will experience trials and sufferings not because He does not care, but because this world is broken. False expectations hinder our day to day faith as well as our day to day call to live on mission by defending the Christian faith.
Here are two brief false expectations that hinder one’s call to defend God’s truth. We have talked about this a lot in this ministry so it will be brief.
- Fear of not knowing enough
- Fear of being rejected
Both of these are false expectations of what God is requiring of us. Jesus specifically chose men who were unlearned. Jesus loves using everyday people who are not considered great by the world’s standards. If He places you in a position to give a defense for the reason for the hope that is in you, He’s asking you to be faithful with the knowledge you have at that moment. You may not be able to answer every question but that is a false expectation if you feel like you have to. God wants to use the knowledge you have now to give a reason for why you believe. Every question you are not currently equipped to answer is not a loss for you. This is not the way one should look at living on mission. It’s only a loss when you sit back and do nothing. It’s a loss when you let the fear of not knowing enough get in the way for your defending the God you claim you love. This is not an excuse to be lazy with how you give a defense for the reason for the hope that’s in you, but it should be encouraging to know that God only desires to use the knowledge you have, not the knowledge you do not.
The fear of being rejected is another huge problem that plagues every Christian who is breathing. By nature, we are people pleasers, and we want to be liked by all. This causes us to fear standing up for truth because we may be rejected and outcasted. Where the false expectation comes in is thinking of being outcasted because of the Gospel is bad. Scripture clearly teaches when you are persecuted (socially, physically, or verbally) then you are blessed. It’s interesting how this is one of the only blessings from which we run. It takes a lot of love for Christ to hold onto Luke 6. Defending is not easy. It may come with a cost, but whatever it is you lose here you will gain in Heaven.
Luke 6:22 ”Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
Not in love enough
Being tainted by the world, fear of rejection and fear of not knowing enough are very powerful deterrents and this article does not intend to make light of those things. The enemy will do anything he can to keep God’s children from defending the truth. He will use this world against God’s children as well as their own flesh. There is one thing that can overcome these things, and that is love. Like in the introduction, the deeper you love someone or something, the deeper you are willing to stand up for them. God and His word should be no different. Although defending your favorite recipe or favorite movie does not involve half the amount of pressure, we should still allow our love to influence what we defend. True love for Christ is what will motivate you to grow in knowledge to be more equipped in giving a defense. A deeper love for Christ will secure Christians while experiencing rejection. Genuine love for Christ will cause you to not fall victim to the traps of the world in silencing the message of the Gospel.
Every Christian should grow in these areas but remember, false expectations will always result in feeling like a failure. Growth in defending what you love is a process, and it does not happen overnight. Every Christian must be patient, willing, and faithful. Let every believer pray and ask God to increase their love for Him because when this happens you will grow in defending Him.
Luke 10: 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”