. . . Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 1 Peter 3:15-17
As I watched football yesterday, I got to remembering my childhood experience with cheering for my team. I liked my team because my family liked them. They were the closest team geographically to my home town and most people I knew cheered for them. Having my team, I committed to them. They were the good guys. Everything they did was righteous. This wasn’t just about football. This was about right and wrong. When I learned that the neighbor kid liked a different team – from the East coast no less – I was astonished and offended. How could you cheer for them? It honestly made me a little angry. If those two teams ever played each other and he cheered against my team . . . I hated that other team, and honestly, it made me a little hateful towards him.
It sounds absurd now, but this mentality isn’t all that foreign to my grown-up self. I’m still prone to a my team mentality, which isn’t necessarily all wrong. I can make commitments to my church, my political party, or my curling team (yes, I curl). It’s not wrong to be on a team. Where I go wrong, is in demonizing the other team. It’s my nature to see my side as always righteous and the other side as always wrong. In this mindset, it’s just another small step to engage in hatred and animosity towards those who don’t see the world as I do.
In today’s passage, Peter provided some framework for how we must interact with those who would not consider themselves to be on our team when it comes to faith. He said that we must be able to defend our faith, but that we must always do so with gentleness and respect. As Christians, we believe we all need a savior. This knowledge should keep us full of humility, love, and grace. Hatred has no place in our interactions with the world around us.
As Christians, we do believe in right and wrong – good and evil. When we engage in hate and anger though, even if it’s in the name of defending our faith, we indulge in evil ourselves. In embracing evil, we prove to the world that we’re the hypocrites they’ve always said we are. If we claim to follow Christ, we must represent him with the love and grace that he’s shown us. That’s what it means to be on his team.