"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." (1 Peter 3:15)
That's a well-known verse, and for good reason. Peter is telling the Christians who received his letter to be prepared to defend their faith. He's calling us to be Christ-like: Jesus always had an answer for those who questioned Him, often catching them in their own traps. His example was not just one of moral purity. He also showed how we need to be prepared to respond to the challenges that the world brings against our faith.
This is an especially important verse to remember right now, at the end of the Australian school year. Next year, there will be many young Christians going to university for the first time, entering a whole new environment. They will meet more challenges to their faith than ever, and some of them - probably a lot of them - will abandon the faith. It's a harsh reality, but one that needs to be acknowledged and kept in mind as we are thrust into a world that is so strongly opposed to a true gospel message. We need a reason for the hope that is in us, and we need to be prepared to answer for it faithfully, with the full weight of God's truth behind us. We need to have science, philosophy, logic, and history all backing up our statements.
And... I left something out, didn't I?
"But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." (1 Peter 3:15b-16)
...That's the tricky part, isn't it? People - myself included - seem to conveniently forget it whenever we're engaged in discussion with those who disagree with us. But the message is clear, possibly even more so than the preceding text. If we claim to represent Christ, and yet do so with vitriol and harsh language, then we aren't truly speaking the gospel. We are damaging the church's reputation with our pride. Jesus answered the questions brought to Him, yet He did so in such a way that when they put Him on trial, they had no real charges. He never insulted their intelligence, or resorted to cheap shots. He spoke the truth, and He did so in such a way that He was blameless of wrongdoing. It is just as important that we show the morality and love of Christianity as it is that we show the truth.
As you go out into the world and preach Christ crucified, remember to do so with your attitude as much as your actions, or you will be doing no more than inflating your own ego. To defend the gospel with hatred is impossible.
"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:1-2)