This is the title of our sermon for next Sunday morning. It’s a great question, and if you have been in the church of Christ a while you have probably heard something like it many times. Do you know how to answer it? Are you “ready to give answer to every man that asketh you?” (1 Pet. 3:15). You will not want to miss this sermon, for it is our intention to provide a scriptural, practical and loving way to answer this important question. In the meantime, may I share with you some ways we should definitely not approach this question:
1. Don’t be defensive about it. The question naturally arouses our defenses, but it may be asked in honesty and sincerity. Becoming defensive or argumentative may destroy a teachable moment. When a person expresses genuine interest in your spiritual beliefs, try to recognize immediately the value of the situation. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Peter tells us there are two attitudes which should characterize our response: 1) Meekness and 2) Fear, (1 Pet. 3:15). “Meekness” involves control, strength and humility. “Fear” involves a healthy respect for God and his word. Let these two attitudes govern your response.
2. Don’t avoid the question. Acknowledge that the question is a good one, and immediately show an interest in answering it. Truth has nothing to fear from an honest examination. If you become evasive or try to avoid the question, you will convey doubt and arouse suspicion. This will make it even harder to address the issue with clarity and honesty. Instead, try complimenting the person who asked, by saying that it is a good question, and that you are glad they asked. Proceed immediately to answer the question or make arrangements for the appropriate opportunity to do so. Don’t be evasive.
3. Don’t become angry. When we get angry or annoyed, the sincere person who asks the question does not understand. They are thinking, “Why does this bother you?” “I don’t understand why you’re getting upset.” Think for a moment about why you would get angry at such a question anyway. Maybe it is because someone has previously asked the question maliciously or antagonistically. They were trying to provoke an argument. We need to put that out of our mind, and recognize this is a new opportunity, a new soul. Try earnestly to treat the question fresh, as though it’s the first time you have been asked.
4. Don’t allow an argument to develop. If you see that you are not getting anywhere, or that the question was not asked in sincerity, pause and consider before you proceed. You may end up doing more harm than good.Don’t let yourself become entangled in a fruitless argument or quarrel. Remember that Paul warned against “wrangling about words” which is not profitable, and leads to the “subverting of them that hear,” (2 Tim. 2:14). As with any religious discussion, remember that you are not trying to win an argument, but a soul.
5. Don’t get personal. When this question is first asked, it may appear like a personal attack. Indeed, it may be a personal attack. But that is not the way to respond. “Resist not him that is evil: but whosoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also,” (Mt. 5:39). You will be able to tell very quickly whether the person is asking sincerely or simply to start a fight. If the latter, don’t stoop to their level. Don’t allow yourself to resort to personal attacks or questions about character or honesty. Remember, it is “the faith” for which you are contending, not your personal character, (Jude 3). You are simply a messenger, a tool, a spokesman for the Lord.
6. Don’t be unkind or cruel. You have the high ground, so don’t misuse it. Remember, the truth can suffer in the wrong hands. You have the truth of God’s word, which is “living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword,” (Heb. 4:12). With some practice and experience, this will become easier and you will become more confident. Use that confidence wisely, not with rudeness or unkindness. This may be the first time the person has ever asked that question, or seriously considered or discussed it. Give them a chance to catch up, to see the implications of what they have said.
When Bible questions are honestly asked and properly answered, people learn. Above are some of the ways we should not answer the question. Please think about these carefully and weigh them in your preparation for next week. Lord willing, they will be very helpful to you on Sunday as we consider together some scriptural principles dealing with how to properly answer the question. In the meantime, maybe we should pray that someone asks!
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.