Don’t Just Respond to Questions, Inspire Them

person sitting in a chair in front of a man

In the New Testament, Peter tells us to always be ready to answer questions. Paul, on the other hand, encourages us to inspire questions by our well worded responses. Both skill sets are important: providing good answers and eliciting good questions. Look at the differences in these two biblical commands:

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 Peter 3:15, ESV)

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:6, ESV)

In the first passage, Peter tells us to respond to inquiries raised by others. He says our responses need to be marked by gentleness and respect. It’s a shame so many Christian apologetics on social media today seem to ignore this basic teaching. It’s as though some think their arguments are well served by their argumentativeness. Jesus wasn’t offering a binary option when he told us to speak the truth in love. It’s not one or the other.

Paul’s encouragement is different than Peter’s. Paul encourages believers to so carefully use their speech they know how to answer every person. Notice what he doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, “listen carefully so you know how to answer.” While I think that is both implied and very important, Paul’s admonition is for our speech to itself anticipate and invite questions.

In sum, be ready to offer an answer. Talk about faith in such a way as to inspire good questions. Let your speech be seasoned with salt. And do it all with wisdom and charity.