How to Share Christ Without Offending Others
This week, we’ll be looking at 1 Peter 3:16.
16However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame.— 1 Peter 3:16 (HCSB)
Let’s look at that in its context, to figure out what “this” is…
13And who will harm you if you are passionate for what is good? 14But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, 15but set apart the Messiah as Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. 17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. 18For Christ also suffered for sins once for all…— 1 Peter 3:13-18a (HCSB)
Verse 13 starts out with a somewhat rhetorical question - who will harm you if you are passionate for what is good? This is an encouragement to his readers (that’s us) that most people would not harm them just because they were doing right by the Lord and good towards others. But, in verse 14, he goes on to tell them that even if someone does make them suffer, they are blessed; this echoes the words of Jesus at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount.
11"Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. 12Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you."— Matthew 5:11-12 (HCSB)
In verse 15, Peter shifts toward evangelism, and tells us that we always need to be ready to defend the faith to those who may ask. If someone is doing good, and others are persecuting them, yet they continue to do good, still others will notice, and will wonder where they get the power to continue doing good. This is just what Paul told Timothy.
2Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching.— 2 Timothy 4:2 (HCSB)
Now, having set all that up, we come to verse 16, where we learn how we are supposed to do this. The words Peter uses are “gentleness and respect.” Many people today find the Word of God offensive - even in America, there are a lot of people who have puffed themselves up, believing that they are above all this “religion” stuff. When we share Christ with others, they may be offended; but that does not absolve us of the responsibility to share Him with others. Here is how the author of Hebrews describes the Word of God…
12"For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart."— Hebrews 4:12 (HCSB)
Some people will get offended at a two-edged sword diving their soul and spirit, and judging their hearts. Rev. Marc Myers, my pastor during high school, used to put it this way: “A Christian should not be deliberately offensive. If you share the Word of God, and the Word offends, so be it. But if you share the Word of God, and you offend, you would be better off not sharing it at all.” This is true - being offensive while sharing Christ actually does more harm than good. It takes the focus off Christ and puts it on the messenger, and it creates a bad reputations for Christians in general.
Think about the abortion clinic. A gentle and respectful way to fight against an abortion clinic is to stand out on the sidewalk and talk, one to one, to the women coming in. I know from experience that women seeking abortion, a lot of times, are using that as means to an end, not an end in itself. Sharing Christ with them can give them hope, and when God works in their spirit, the baby is not only kept, but welcomed and wanted.
Another way of dealing with an abortion clinic is bombing it, destroying it so that it is no longer a conducive place for abortion. However, not only is this offensive (disrespectful to the property of others, irresponsible towards life in that people may be in the building), it is also illegal. Verse 17 says that it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. Eric Rudolph is suffering for doing evil, not good.
Peter wraps up chapter 3 by reminding us of Who else has suffered for doing good. Christ is our example, and just as the world was offended at His message when He delivered it, it still finds this message offensive today. In the verse above from Matthew, Jesus said that they also persecuted the prophets before Him. While we should strive not to offend, this should be encouraging to us; if they take offense at our message - well, that’s nothing new, is it? May we have the courage to share Christ, and the humility to share it without our methods offending.