Over the last two weeks I have had the privilege of reading three books on how to share our faith. At the same time, I have studied in depth on the witness of Paul the Apostle.
Doing both of these has confirmed some convictions I have long held. I also have seen anew that what we say and the tone with which we say it matters.
When Paul came under control of the crowd on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, he asked permission of the Roman tribune to address the crowd. He wanted to give a “defense” for himself and for the gospel he proclaimed. The word “defense” both in Acts 22:1 and 1 Peter 3:15 is the same Greek word, the word “apologia.” We get from this the term “apologetics,” meaning a defense of Christian belief.
As you study the speech of Paul, you notice immediately Paul’s desire to win the Jews, not to drive them away. Paul used several techniques to do so.
First, he treated them with respect. He spoke in the Aramaic language, which was the common dialect of the Jews. He could have spoken in Greek for the sake of the Romans, but he wanted his countrymen to hear and understand the gospel. As Paul addressed the crowd, he called them brothers and fathers, terms of endearment and respect.
Second, he treated them with sensitivity. Paul did not speak disparagingly about the temple or of their beliefs. He spoke with kindness and sincerity.
Third, he demonstrated his love for them and for the Jewish religion. He spoke with respect about the temple and the law in which he had been taught. When he told of what had happened to him, he described how the God of their fathers had spoken to him.
Fourth, he used his own story to communicate truth. Acts 22 is the passage in which we learn additional personal information about Paul. He told the crowd that he was a Jew of Tarsus who had been taught by the great rabbi Gamaliel. Like Paul, even skeptics will listen to our personal stories.
As we look at this, we can learn great lessons about being able to give a reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15).
We live in a world that will believe anything (think zombies) and nothing. We have a tough job and a great opportunity to share our faith and help other people know Christ. Let us be people of prayer who seek God and His power as we also seek those who are “without hope and without God.” Let us pray for repentant hearts and spirits as we give the account of why we have hope.