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 (1 Peter 3:15).
One of the challenges in defending the Christian faith against false teachings is how to come across as loving. This is often especially difficult for me. On an emotional scale from hormonal, insecure preteen school girl whose BFF just passed by in the hallway without saying hello to unfeeling robot, I probably come across as landing somewhere between Mr. Spock and the robot.
In reality I do have feelings, can feel empathy, and even exhibit emotion. Really! My wife has seen all of those things. Perhaps even twice. But expressing empathy, compassion and love for people in a text blog on the Internet or a Facebook post is extra hard. Especially when you are saying that someone is teaching falsehood and you are calling out a person by name.
It is easy to get caught up evaluating the tone of a message and miss the actual warning. For example, there is a new smoke alarm on the market that speaks to you with a female human voice. Can you imagine hearing a female voice in the middle of the night saying:
Emergency, there is smoke!
I sure don’t like her tone. Emergency? Smoke? I don’t smell anything. She is always so quick to judge. She really should have at least said how much she cares for me. And doesn’t she know that I need to sleep tonight? I have a big day tomorrow. Besides I have been in this house many times before and I have never noticed a fire.
Ridiculous of course. The reason we put up smoke alarms is so that they will detect fires. For that same reason, we should always surround ourselves with strong, mature brothers and sisters in Christ that can warn us of danger. We all have our spiritual, intellectual, and emotional blind spots. I have them too and those who know me best could probably quickly tell me what they are.
We need other Christians who love us to tell us the truth. To warn us of the smoke and pull us out of the fires. We need to identify the people in our lives who will tell us the hard truths precisely because they love us. And we need to identify them before the smoke starts billowing around us so that we will clearly recognize the warnings when they come.
Yes, we should always try our best to defend the faith with gentleness and respect. But sometimes there is no gentle way to wake someone up and say, “Emergency, there is smoke! You need to get out of here now!”