In the U.S. military, soldiers who have acted valiantly above and beyond the call of duty receive the Medal of Honor. This honor recognizes their loyalty, service, and dedication to their country. It puts them in a special class and distinguishes them as those who have been exceptionally heroic in service to their country.
Soldiers who have given their all for those they swore to protect receive the Medal of Honor. There is another one who gave his all for us, to protect us and to save us: Jesus Christ. But how can we honor Christ?
That is a question that all Christians must answer. We have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19), and so we must glorify God with our bodies and our lives. I was discussing this topic with Zack Seals, the 2012-2013 Stoa NITOC Mars Hill Champion and 4th place Apologetics Champion, when he made a very interesting point. He stated that Apologetics is one of the ways that we honor Christ. That is, when we are able to defend what we believe, and show that Christ is the sure foundation of our faith, he is honored. Here’s how Zack explained it:
“We as Christians are responsible, and I would say required, to be able to give a defense or explanation for why we hold to the belief that we do. That doesn’t mean we are going to be able to in every situation. But it is shown to be something that we are required to know as a Christian. The command in 1 Peter 3:15 is to ‘set apart Christ as Lord,’ and in the prior verse Peter even refers to a section in Isaiah [Isaiah 8:13] where the same command is used to view Yahweh as holy. So the application is from Isaiah 8: In the same way as we are to regard Yahweh as holy we are to sanctify Christ as Lord. That’s the command. The way we show Christ as Lord of both our hearts and minds is described in the very next part of the verse, ‘Always be ready to give a reason for the hope that you have.’ So Apologetics is how we show that we are fulfilling that command to set apart Christ as Lord. Therefore we are required to respond to others. That is the objective in order to fulfill that command.”
Zack is absolutely right to say that by giving a defense of our beliefs we honor Christ. And if we look at 1 Peter 3, we see that Peter actually identifies two ways that we honor Christ. These are not contrary to one another but rather coordinate—they work together to achieve one end. Let’s glance at the entire passage, 1 Peter 3:14b-16 (ESV):
“Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, 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.”
First, we “honor Christ the Lord as holy” by “being prepared to make a defense.” Our faith is not blind. We see Christ—albeit in a mirror dimly—and are convinced that he is true. We should be able to explain that to others when they ask why we place our faith is Jesus. That is why Apologetics is so important. When we have a firm grasp of the basic doctrines of Christianity, we will be able to answer the questions of skeptics and unbelievers. When we show that the gospel is more than a child’s fairy tale, Christ is honored.
Second, we honor Christ when we have “good behavior in Christ.” Notice how Peter describes our actions as we are defending: we must be gentle, respectful, not doing anything that our conscience would condemn. As Christians, others will slander us. The unbelieving will often accuse us, grasping at anything in our lives that is worthy of censure. If we can talk the talk but cannot walk the walk, Christ is dishonored. Alongside Apologetics is, equally importantly, holy living. We do not want to be put to shame. Instead, we desire that those who slander us would be put to shame when they see our behavior and realize that their accusations are groundless. When Jesus’ people act like him, he is honored.
We are all called to honor Christ as holy. We don’t give him a medal like the Medal of Honor. Instead, we honor Jesus through Apologetics and through holy living. As you prepare for competition this year, keep that in mind. Study hard and live righteously, all in order to glorify Jesus.