Do you have any hot buttons? What topics seem to trigger you these days? What can you do to respond in ways that honor Christ?

“Don’t be afraid or get agitated with anyone, but honor Christ the Lord in your heart, always being prepared to make a thoughtful response to all who ask about the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:14-15). Notice the key words in this passage that prepares you “to make a thoughtful response.” Let’s work our way back from the end of the verse.

Listen respectfully = be the safe space that everyone can say what they think. This is particularly beneficial to those who struggle to communicate their feelings or have limited experience of being listened to. You can dignify their voice without agreeing with them. Sometimes listening is all God wants you to do.

Listen gently = allow others to make mistakes without smashing them. No one talks perfectly. Rather than pouncing on one insensitive or politically incorrect word, choose to be gracious. Humbly contemplate the light and darkness in every human heart—including your own.

Listen hopefully = as God’s light enters our darkness, trust that God’s Spirit is working all things into the goodness of Christ.

Listen honorably = you will find the God you want to share in the lives of the people to whom you want to bless. Always ask, “What is God saying to me through this person?” Look for God to speak through those you don’t agree with and challenge your assumptions with unexpected insights.

Talk without fear or agitation = try to respond to the values people cherish. People often talk in principles, that is, how they think things should be. If you only stay here in your conversations, you will just swap perspectives. But if you realize that behind those principles are values, that is, prized aspects of life, you will enter the realm of fruitful ministry.

What cherished values lie underneath your hot buttons? Let’s go there.