"Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks, but do this with gentleness and respect" (1Pet 3:15)
In his first epistle, the Apostle Peter famously said that followers of Jesus should “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks” (1Pet 3:15). Throughout the long history of the church, this has been the primary prooftext for the task of apologetics. But in that same verse, Peter went on to encourage believers to do this “with gentleness and respect.” In other words, it’s not enough for us to think through important issues, or to read books on a variety of apologetics-related topics. We also need to remember our new identity as representatives of our crucified and risen king.
In Mt 11:29 Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” This is why we are called to be gentle, because we’re called to be like Jesus. Though his yoke is easy (Mt 11:30), at the end of the day it’s still a yoke. But his way is not only true, it’s also good and beautiful. The word Jesus uses when he describes himself as “gentle” in Greek is praus, which happens to be the same word we find in Mt. 5:5 when Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” This is why gentleness is a crucial ingredient for all our apologetic engagements, because it’s consistent with who Jesus is, and who we’re called to be. We conquer not by strong-arm tactics or through manipulative techniques, but by the fruit of the Spirit, such as gentleness, patience, and self-control (Gal 5:22). As Paul says elsewhere, “Though we walk in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh” (2Cor 10:3).
When Jesus said “the meek shall inherit the earth,” he was actually quoting Psalm 37:11, and when he described himself as “gentile and lowly” in Mt. 11:29, he was using the same language the prophets used to describe Israel’s coming Messiah. Isaiah 40:11 says, “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” And Zechariah famously announced, “Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zec 9:9). The Greek word for “lowly” that appears in Mt 11:29 is tapeinos, which can also be rendered, subservient, unpretentious, or humble.