The Apostle Peter challenges us by saying, "Always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you for a reason regarding the hope that is in you, yet answer with gentleness and reverence" (1 Pe 3:15).
Now this is an interesting challenge, because you don't necessarily always know WHO in particular is going to question you about your faith and hope in Christ, or WHEN they are going to ask you, or specifically WHAT they might ask you or WHY they are asking —what their motives are.
It may be your best friend or your worst enemy, a relative or a total stranger who questions your hope in Christ. You may be given ample warning or caught completely off guard by the timing or the nature of the questioning —and not everyone will be asking you questions in an honest way.
Peter commands that we "be ready" (1 Pe 3:15) to give a proper answer, not evading the question, to everyone who asks. To do this, we must be adequately prepared beforehand with a sound knowledge and understanding about our hope in Christ.
As Paul said, "Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2Timothy 2:15).
So that's our first challenge, to be prepared. Now let's look at the second challenge, to have the right attitude...
Fundamental to our obedience to this command, is that we follow Peter's initial exhortation to "sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts" (1Peter 3:15). Commitment and dedication to the Lord should be our primary attitude.
Peter further describes the proper attitude as "meekness and fear" or, as some translations have it, "gentleness and respect" (1 Pe 3:15).
This is quite a challenge, because, as Peter says, the same people who ask about your faith are often likely to turn on you and defame you and put you down because of what you have said to them concerning your hope in Christ (1Peter 3:16).
We recall that Jesus says, "Don't cast your pearls before swine" (Matthew 7:6). We are challenged to be careful of exactly what we say to people who are completely worldly and dishonest with us, and who are opposed to Godly principles.
We need to recognise that some things are better off not said to some types of people, because they are incapable of recognising their true value.
Whilst the question of attitude is complex, Paul gives us a guideline as to how we should speak. "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4:29).
If we take that attitude in giving our answer, we cannot go wrong.
So that's our second challenge, to have the right attitude. Now let's look at the third challenge, which is the answer itself...
Where some translations have the words "give an answer" other translations have "make a defence".
We must be prepared to DEFEND our hope in Christ from those who would oppose God's truth. "The defence and confirmation of the gospel" (Philippians 1:7) is a necessary part of giving an answer to our more hostile questioners.
The basic or underlying question is always, "Why are you a christian?" and the ultimate answer is that, by being Christians, we have the assurance of eternal life and joy in heaven. People, however, need this hope explained, and they need to be given the evidence on which our hope is based.
So the answer we give may not be simple, and can be quite a challenge.
We need not be daunted by having to give an answer, because our answer does not have to come from our own intelligence or wisdom. The gospel which has been revealed to us is all we need to tell. As Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..." (Romans 1:16).
If we stick to the gospel in giving our answer, we cannot go wrong.
So that's our three-fold challenge, first to be ready, second to have the right attitude, third to give the right answer.
I hope that you will take this challenge to heart and properly understand what this command involves and adequately prepare yourself by giving attention to the fundamentals mentioned above.
No commands from the Lord are impossible and this command is a worthy and valuable challenge for us to take up and it is right up there in terms of importance to our service to the Lord.