“Hey, so why are you on Team Jesus?” said none of your friends, teammates, or anyone ever.
More realistically, people in your life have asked you or will ask you something along the lines of, “Why do you believe all that Jesus stuff?” or “So, you think that anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus is going to hell?” These questions, and a myriad of others, are typical when you start taking your faith seriously and when people around you start taking notice — that’s a good thing! But as these questions about your faith in Jesus arise, it’s important to know what you believe and why you believe it.
"I want to become an athlete of influence!"
Think of the greatest commandment and the second greatest, which is like it: love your God and love your neighbor. Being prepared to give thoughtful, honest, and winsome reasons for your faith is an important way to be faithful to the God you love, and it’s an important way to show love for your neighbor as you seek to point them back to their Creator.
When considering how to go about giving reasons for your faith it’s also important to distinguish between the cause of your faith and the reasons for your faith.
Take, for instance, this common objection: “You only believe in Jesus because you were born in America.” This argument seeks to invalidate your faith by making it an accident of history. The argument continues, “If you were born in Saudi Arabia, you would have been a Sunni Muslim, not a Christian.” But what this critique demonstrates is that there is a difference between the cause of your faith and the reasons for your faith.
The historical origin of why you believe what you believe has nothing to do with the truth or falsehood of your beliefs. Maybe you became a Christian because your parents raised you in a Christian home and taught you to love Jesus. Does that have anything to do with whether or not Christianity is true? Of course not.
In light of this cause/reason distinction, I make a point when asked about why I believe in Jesus, to acknowledge that there are many causes for my faith, most importantly the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart to bring me to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus. But I also have various reasons for believing in Christ. I certainly don’t have to hide behind a leap of “blind faith,” and as we will see, God doesn’t want us to do that anyway.
Defending your faith
Giving reasons for faith in Christ has a long history, and the practice has come to be known as “apologetics.” While to our modern ears giving an apology means to say you’re sorry, historically, an apology was the exact opposite; to give an apology was to defend one’s ideas or actions — it was to give a justification. Think of the Apology of Socrates where he defends himself against the indictment of Meletus.
Christian apologetics derives its name from this ancient sense of apology which comes from the Greek word apologia, meaning a verbal defense, usually in a court of law. We as Christians are exhorted by the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 3:15 to honor Christ the Lord as holy in our hearts, and to always be prepared to make a defense [apologian] to anyone who asks us for the reason for our hope in Christ, and to make this defense with gentleness and reverence. So, we honor Christ first and foremost, we prepare ourselves to give reasons in defense of our hope in Christ, and we make this defense not with vitriol or snobbery, but with gentleness and reverence for God and those made in His image.
Contending for your faith
The art of giving reasons for your faith — apologetics — involves defending your faith, as we’ve seen above. But those of you with a sports background might be hearing your childhood coach’s gruff voice echoing in your head: “The best defense is a good offense!” Your coach is right. We who are called to defend our Christian faith are also exhorted to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). This is to fight for the gospel in the marketplace of ideas and protect it from false teachers as well. This means that when we go about sharing our faith, there will be times when we are to “destroy arguments and lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:5).
We are called to give reasons in defense of our faith in Jesus, and we are equally called to give reasons why we don’t follow other belief systems as we seek to clear a path for the gospel message.
Of course, in contending for the faith we are to exhibit the same spirit of gentleness and respect as in our defense. Lest anyone get the wrong idea about our duty to go on the offensive, the Apostle Paul reminds us we never use violence in our contending (2 Cor. 10:4-6). The only force we use is the force of our arguments, and the only weapon appropriate for this type of warfare is the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. We are called to play offense, not to be offensive jerks or bullies.
Commending your faith
We give reasons in defense, we give reasons as offense, but all the while, the end goal of giving reasons ought to be sharing our faith with others.
The goal isn’t defense for the sake of protecting our egos, or offense for the sake of defeating opponents; the goal is always to present our faith in a winsome manner. The goal is persuasion. As the Apostle Paul says, “therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others” (2 Cor. 5:11). We who honor Christ in our hearts as holy, who have a sense of fear and reverence for God and who benefit daily from the gospel of Jesus are called to show the beauty of this message to those with whom we interact.
Inevitably, we’ll hear objections like those of King Agrippa in Acts 26:28, “In such a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” to which we follow Paul in saying: Yes! Whether short or long, we certainly do want to persuade you to follow Christ. Not because of some creepy ulterior motive, but because we believe it’s the truth and the only hope for humanity.
We who have faith in Jesus give reasons to defend our faith, to contend for our faith, and to commend our faith. Those in the athletic community know this very well.
Think of your favorite Lebron fan. They defend Lebron against all sorts of attacks; they contend for Lebron as the G.O.A.T., and they seek to persuade others to join Team Bron-Bron. If we spend time defending, contending for, and commending our favorite teams and heroes, how much more important is it for us to defend, contend for, and commend our faith in Christ?