It is a beautiful thing to watch the transformation of the Apostle Peter from his rough-stock days as a fisherman. We’ve said in these writings that he was an impulsive lad given to braggadocios displays of vanity. On more than one occasion he overpromised his fidelity to Christ. We find in the Book of Galatians that the Apostle Paul was forced to confront Peter’s hypocrisy in respect to munching on pork with the Gentiles while dismissing those same Gentiles out of hand when important Jewish Christians entered the room. I like the Apostle Peter not only for the fact that he was, in a sense, an “every man” sinner, but also because he allowed grace to do its great work over time. He would one day be crucified for his apostolic work. In other words, he was given a “do over” with his failed promise to follow Jesus to the death. He did. And church history tells us that he requested to be crucified upside down so that people wouldn’t confuse the image of his death with that of Jesus’. He experienced to the full what Jesus said about being hated.
I mention all of this to direct our attention to something Peter said in his first epistle: But in your hearts revere 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.” I Peter 3:15 Had John written these words we would not have been surprised. But for Peter, a man who comes across in his early days as boisterous and contentious – definitely an eye for an eye man – this is significant. Peter is giving instructions to believers on how best to carry on in a hostile culture. It seems that he is saying that we are to lead with our lives, and that in so doing, it might occasion an opportunity for our words to follow. And the words that follow are to be given with gentleness and respect. One quick look at the Greek gives us pause. We are told to speak with gentleness and respect. There’s not a lot to mine from the word “gentleness.” It is a great translation. But the word translated here as “respect” is old our friend φόβος (fo’-bos) which means “to fear.” That seems odd. The word is often used in reference to God, which of course makes sense. It is also used in the face of experiencing the fury of mother nature. That too makes sense. But in the case of sharing our faith? What is Peter getting at? Are we to fear the people who’ve asked us to share a bit about our hope? I don’t think so. Go back and look at the very beginning of verse 15: But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. I think what Peter is getting at is to be in fear, or better, in awe of the moment. When these moments come, when our lives have earned us the right to be heard, the presence of the Lord has arranged the appointment – both for us to share and for them to listen. It is a holy moment, a Divine wrinkle in time and He is with us.