But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1 Peter 3:15-16
A recent Barna study reports that almost four in ten (37%) of professing Christians who don't go to church, stopped attending because they were hurt by people in the church. On the website About.com, the question was asked, "Why don't you attend church?" One person's comment summed up the thoughts of many others. They wrote, "Because from what I can see, the church makes no difference at all in the lives of the believers who go there, except to possibly make them more judgmental and mean." Now I have been around long enough to know that if those in the church confront an adulterer with his or her adultery, this can be deemed as "judgmental and mean." I have also been around long enough to know some Christians are judgmental and mean, and Jesus seems to make little difference in their lives. The sad truth is that many inside the church are keeping many outside the church.
Believers must be prepared to stand up for Christ and communicate the main points of Christianity. And ... they must act and speak "with gentleness and respect." Remember you used to be the person who didn't "get it." Apart from God's grace, you would still be that person.
A few years ago I had a person at our church tell me, "I'm a Calvinist. I'm just not mad about it anymore." I love that line. Whatever persuasion of theology you most closely adhere to, you really don't need to be mad about it. Your most passionate conviction can be shared with gentleness and respect ... no, your conviction must be shared with gentleness and respect.
Lord Jesus, help me demonstrate to a watching world that You do make a difference in my life not just for eternity, but for right now as I do marriage, parenting, drive down the road, handle disappointments, deal with the pressures of my job, handle my finances, and wait in a long line at the grocery store when I am in a hurry (when am I not in a hurry?). And when You graciously give me the chance to share my faith, help me to share the deepest conviction of my heart with gentleness and respect. In Your name I pray. Amen.