Every Christian shares call to bear witness to Jesus. Or to put it another way, we are called to be Christians in public—to be open, honest, and outward facing when it comes to talking about what we believe and why.
To a persecuted church, struggling with what it was costing them to claim the name of Christ, the Apostle Peter wrote:
“… 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…” – 1 Peter 3:15
One of our values at Christ Presbyterian Church is that we would embrace an outward facing, public faith. We see in our vision statement:
As a family united in Christ and led by Scripture, we at Christ Presbyterian Church exist as partakers in a movement of God’s Kingdom that offers spiritual life, public faith, mercy and justice, and the integration of faith and work to the people, communities, institutions, and churches of greater Nashville, and through Nashville, to the world.
When Peter says, “Be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…”, he is saying we need to be prepared to explain our reason for trusting Christ to anyone who asks. This question is worth meditating on: Why do I trust Christ?
Evangelism is truth-telling—bearing witness in the same way a witness takes the stand to testify. We talk about what we believe to be true, what we have witnessed first-hand. Why must we talk about our faith? One reason is that we have an ethical responsibility to tell the truth. If we believe what we say we believe, why would we conceal it from others? The entertainer and outspoken atheist Penn Gillette said, “How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
Christians were never meant to be the Gospel’s destination. It was meant to come to us, and then pass through us. We are meant to pass along the grace we have received—to proclaim it. Peter is saying our testimony for Christ is really an ethical matter. It is not ours to keep. We must give it away.
The Gospel doesn’t just change what we think. It doesn’t just bring a bunch of new data into our lives. It changes who we are. In Christ, we become people with a purpose, a chief end—to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Everything in life is affected by this faith, and we become people joined to Christ in such a way that nothing in all creation can separate us from His love.
Evangelism is not meant to be a task, but something more like a song that flows out of someplace deep inside of us. This is mystory. This is mysong. And that song flows from a deep love and affection for Jesus.
Peter doesn’t tell us to make sure we ask everyone we encounter if they know Jesus. He says, “Live in such a way that people will look at you and ask you about the hope they see in you.” This, in part, is what it means to live as public Christians. And this is my prayer for our third Christ Pres location as we move forward—that we would be a congregation of public witnesses to the grace and love of Christ.