Prussian military historian, theorist and tactician Carl von Clausewit famously stated that, “The best defense is a good offense.” This phrase has often been applied to sports and strategy games (i.e. chess, risk, etc…). And while it may be true in those situations, in Christianity the exact opposite is the case. Since Christianity is countercultural in so many areas, it should come to no surprise that it would be countercultural in this area as well.
In this regard, my beloved Chicago Bears are probably the most Christian football team in the NFL. They live and die by the defense. Which is sometimes frustrating and demands a great deal of patience because the accepted norm is to have superior offensive production than the other team. For the same reason this can also be frustrating as a Christian because our natural tendency is fight-or-flight.
Peter states in I Peter 3:15-16:
Always be prepared to make your defense to anyone who calls you to account concerning the hope that is in you; but do so with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
The word translated “defense” comes from the Greek word apologia (απολογία = από + λόγος), and can be best defined as a defense or justification of one’s opinions, positions, beliefs or actions. In his book Christian Apologetics, Dr. Douglas Groothuis defines Christian Apologetics as “the rational defense of the Christian worldview as objectively true, rationally compelling and existentially or subjectively engaging.”
In the hostile, anti-Christian world in which we live, it is inevitable that Apostolics and Christians in general will be called upon to defend their faith. In doing so, it is vital to remember that a defense is not an attack, but the exact opposite. It is a tactic used in an attempt to try to stop an opposing attack. If our default tactic is to attack we probably have a weak defense.
Peter challenges us regarding our Christian defense.
It must be reasonable. Within the word apologia can be found the word logos. A logos is a reasonable and intelligent statement of someone’s position. In Greek culture it was a mark of an intelligent person to be able to give and to receive a logos concerning actions and beliefs. In order to accomplish this, we must first know what it is that we believe and why it is that we believe it. We must be able to state it intelligently and intelligibly.
Our defense must be given with gentleness and reverence. It is very easy to become arrogant and belligerent with our beliefs, especially if we have spent a good deal of personal time in study of the Word of God and are confident in what we believe. (Personal aside: I must confess that have ventured down this road a time or two, and have on more than one occasion asked forgiveness of God and of another individual for doing so. I continually seek to improve and grow in this area and pray that God will grant me grace.) We must make the case for our faith attractive (much like attempting to make ourselves attractive to a member of the opposite gender). We must make people wish it were true, and then show that it is. We must also heed the words of the Apostle Paul and “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15). Finally, we must come to the unfortunate realization that no one can possess the whole truth (neither ourselves nor those to whom we offer our defense) and accept the possibility that we could be wrong.
Ultimately, the only compelling argument is the argument of the Christian life. We ought to act in such a way that our consciences are clear. We should be able to meet criticism with lives that are beyond reproach. Striving to live a Godly, Christian life will silence slander and disarm disapproval.
Those that resort to agitation and assault when they encounter someone with whom they disagree with are employing very un-Christlike actions and should perhaps consider the words of Peter and the example of Christ.