Jesus said he did not come to bring peace but a sword, that he came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother (Matt. 10:34-37). He warned that “whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:38). He told a wealthy man to sell all his possessions and give to the poor (Luke 18:22). He pointed a finger at the religious establishment of his day and said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). He commanded his disciples to love their enemies and pray for those who persecuted them (Matt. 5:44).
Jesus called us to lead lives that are radically different from the world. His disciple Paul commanded us to leave the world and “be separate” (2 Cor. 6:17). This means we should get the world’s attention by the way we live. Our lives are supposed to be different, strikingly different.
Here’s where we need to be careful. Just because you are different, that doesn’t mean you are living the life Christ intended for you to live. Take, for example, the Jews who rejected Jesus Christ. Paul said, “They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2). They were different alright, and enthusiastic too. But their lives were not reasonable, and that was the problem. Many Christians have made the same mistake. They make sacrifices, they change their lives, they get attention, but they harm the cause of Christ because they are being unreasonable.
Peter said, “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” (1 Pet. 3:15). Two words from this verse demand our attention. The first is “defense,” which is translated from a Greek word that comes from the same word from which the English word “apology” is derived. However, Peter is not talking about saying “I’m sorry.” The word he used is the regular term for a defense before a judge (Acts 22:1; 25:16). Here it applies to a reasoned explanation. The second word is “reason,” which is sometimes translated “account.” This word signifies intelligent discourse. So what Peter is saying is, “Always be prepared to give a reasonable explanation to anyone who asks for an intelligent conversation with you about the hope that is in you.”
Studies show that disagreements are more likely to be resolved when the people on either side of a problem understand one another. In the same way, the world is more likely to respond to the gospel when they understand the reason why Christians live the way they live.
The Christian life is not simply radical. It’s reasonably radical.