Monday, September 25, 2006

How A Christian Defends Himself

by Mark Larson

Knowing self-defense may not, at first, seem all that important for Christians to know. After all, Jesus commands: “... Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Mat. 5:39). Yet, Jesus is condemning personal retaliation or revenge, not self-defense in this passage (cf. Luke 22:38).

However, the kind of self-defense that should be most important to us as Christians is not the physical kind, but the spiritual kind: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:3, NASB). To “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12) and face our persecutors victoriously, we must use spiritual, not carnal means.

Christians who are living godly lives should expect to be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12). When, for example, false charges of evil are brought against us or accusations are made against what we believe and practice, we should know how to defend ourselves.

Thankfully, the Lord, through the apostle Peter, provides us with the instructions we need to properly and effectively defend ourselves from our persecutors: “... And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness (meekness – KJV) and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Pet. 3:14b-16).

“Sanctify Christ as Lord in Your Hearts”

First of all, Christians must “sanctify Christ as Lord in [their] hearts.” This is the foundation to our “self-defense” as Christians. No matter what the world may say about Christ (Note: the actual word in the Greek text is Christos / Christ, not theos / God), Christ remains holy and pure within the heart of Christians. Though others may say Jesus was an imposter, a fraud, or merely a prophet, our faith in Jesus as Christ the Lord is maintained. Christ is “sanctified” within our heart, separate from the profane or sinful comments and criticisms of our persecutors.

Christ is Lord in our hearts and thus the Lord of our lives. In order to defeat the intimidation of men, total devotion to the Lord is required (cf. Mat. 22:37). Christians who decide beforehand that the Lord will determine what they will say or do will face no uncertainty or confusion about what to do when persecuted. Christians belong to the Lord and therefore submit to the Lord and obey Him who is Master. Our loyalty lies first with Jesus Christ the Lord who has been given all authority (Mat. 28:18).

We Are to Be Ready at All Times to Defend Ourselves.

Today, the need to defend what we believe and what we practice in Christ is seen as unnecessary and even confrontational by many religious groups. Instead of standing for the truth, many have given in to secularism and the false teachings of society in order to get along with the world. Rather than refute the false charges or debate their persecutors, compromises are made in order to secure “peace” and “unity.” Nevertheless, we are commanded to “make a defense” or “give an answer” for the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15). We have an obligation to give a verbal defense, a reasoned statement or argument in response to the charges of our persecutors!

Such readiness to answer our persecutors is not meant be an occasional preparation in which we speak up only when we are really “fired up” or upset about an issue. Instead, we are to be ready at all times. “... Always being ready to make a defense...” (1 Pet. 3:15). This requires prayer and a steadfast commitment to Bible study (Eph. 6:17-18; 5:17; 2 Tim. 2:15). Furthermore, we are to be ready to respond to anyone who may ask for an explanation of our faith: “... Make a defense to everyone who asks you...” (1 Pet. 3:15). There is a great temptation not to give a defense or answer to certain people like family members (to keep the “peace”) or coworkers and employers (to keep our job). However, we are commanded to make a defense to everyone, not just a few select people.

People Ask Because of Our Hope of Heaven in Christ

Often, the reason why people will ask for us to give an account, reason, or explanation of our faith in Christ is because of “the hope that is in [us]” – the hope of going Heaven. Unlike the world who does not have this hope (1 Thess. 4:13b), Christians have a genuine hope of Heaven because of their faith in the Savior and Lord Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:3-5; Heb. 6:19-20; Titus 2:13). Most people do not have much confidence or assurance in their salvation. Many are skeptical of the thought of an “afterlife” and demand an explanation. These are opportunities to give people the “answer” and share with them the soul-saving Gospel of Jesus Christ!

In Our Defense, We Must Respond As Christ Would.

The manner in which we defend ourselves is as important as the answer or explanation we give. In giving our defense, we are to speak “with meekness and fear” and “keep a good conscience” (1 Pet. 3:15-16). We should speak with boldness or confidence (Acts 13:46), but also keep our strength or power in check, lest we come across as harsh or rude. This requires meekness – the gentle, mild, calm, and kind spirit of Christ (Mat. 11:29; 2 Cor. 10:1). “Fear” or “reverence” is also important, treating each person with respect, just like we would want to be treated (Luke 6:31). Finally, a good conscience is absolutely essential. Let us not only be concerned with our conscience before God, but also before men, lest we appear as hypocrites (Acts 24:16). Effectively teaching the truth to others demands we live the truth ourselves: “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim 1:5). Our manner of speaking and our integrity is vital to representing true Christianity: “For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong” (1 Pet. 3:17).

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