There is a common trend that I have seen and have heard about concerning the faith that is become very popular amongst those of the faith. It is a trend that on the surface seems correct, Biblical even, but in the underlying, we find it to be very counter-Scripture.
I heard a story recently of a man who was involved in the Narcotics Anonymous program. Now, anyone who has ever experienced the NA program knows that it is highly touted as being a “spiritual, not religious” program, and as such, no member of the group is to look down upon others based on their personal faith. Well, this man constantly badgered and belittled all of the other members, arguing ad nauseum that Jesus was the only way that they would ever find the freedom and salvation that they sought after. And, while he’s not wrong on that fact, he was very wrong in his approach. And then I started thinking about the number of those in the faith that I have seen and read online arguing, debating, insulting those who didn’t believe. And, I started to question something, is that how we are supposed to conduct ourselves in dealing with non-believers? Does Jesus really need us to argue, to debate, to fight?
In Scripture, we read the words of Jesus, “I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20). When Jesus called each of the disciples, He never coerced them or argued with them, it was simply “follow Me.” In fact, to the contrary of how we conduct ourselves, Jesus normally argued against those who sought to be His disciples. He told one man that if he went to his father’s funeral, then he wasn’t fit for the kingdom. Another man He told that he had to sell everything that he had and give all of the money to the poor before he could be considered fit for the kingdom. We, on the other hand, stand before someone who claims that they don’t believe and waste ample amounts of time trying to argue with them against their beliefs, as though in our own piety and wisdom, we could coerce them into receiving the gift of salvation that is offered.
See, when we do this, we not only seek to infringe upon their free will; we actually break the traditions of the Church and the commandments of Holy Scripture. How often do we seek to convince someone of the truth of the faith by revealing the Holy mysteries to them? How often do we seek to influence someone by explaining the mysteries to them? In the age of the Apostles, the unbaptized weren’t even allowed to be present during the sacraments of the Church, as they were exactly that. In the Liturgy, before Communion, we state that “I will not speak of thy Mystery to thine enemies.” Consider that Moses himself did not open the meeting tent to everyone, else the mysteries would be revealed to the unclean, and yet, we parade around the hidden mysteries of the faith as though they were but so many signs to draw others to us. What of Jesus’ warning, “do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you into pieces.” (Matthew 7:6).
John Chrysostom says in his homilies on Genesis, “A Manichean comes and says matter is uncreated; say to him, ‘In the beginning, God made heaven and earth,’ and immediately you have overthrown his conceit. But he does not believe the statement of Scripture, you retort. On these grounds also then, shun and avoid him as a madman: anyone who does not believe in God who has manifested Himself, and instead represents truth as falsehood, how does he not patently demonstrate his madness? His unbelief?” It’s this idea that someone who is asking how God created all things obviously doesn’t believe that He did, thus why would you explain this mystery to him and give him something to mock about over a pint at the local tavern once you have departed.
See, our job isn’t to argue people into belief. It would never work anyway. They may relent to silence us, and then slander us once we have left; but our incessant rambling and arguing merely makes us at best annoying, as a gnat buzzing around a man’s ear, and at worst, it makes us appear to be the foolish madman, an image which could lead away from the faith someone who might otherwise have turned to it. No, our job isn’t to argue, to coerce, to convince; merely to offer. Considering the degree of dedication, the “cost that has been counted,” of being a disciple of Christ, how strong of a conviction would one have if they had to be convinced to be a part of the faith? No, rather, they must hunger for it, and if someone is hungering after something strongly enough and it is offered to them, there is no amount of persuasion that is required to get them to accept it. A man, starving and penniless, offered a decent portion of food would require little to no persuasion to accept that food; likewise a man seeking after the Lord will require little persuasion to accept the gift of salvation offered. A man who is not seeking after Him, however, will never be persuaded otherwise.
My brothers and sisters, let us not demean the Gospel of our beloved Lord by appearing desperate for numbers, by appearing as though we are the beggars of the Lord, pleading and compromising that He would have more followers. Let us not reveal the mysteries of the faith to those who mock it, giving them the very ammunition that they need when the war comes to fruition. Our job is to offer this gift to everyone, and those who receive it, we are able to fulfill the Great Commission. Those who “will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.” (Matthew 10:14).
Our God is a mighty God. We seem to have reversed a simple fact; He doesn’t need us, we need Him. When we remember that, then His gift of salvation seems much greater, much grander. “Let the Lord be true and every man a liar.” If no one in the world believed He was the Lord, it wouldn’t change that He is the Lord, to whom “every knee will bow and every tongue confess.” The time that we spend online and in person arguing the truths of God to those who will not believe is time that would be better spent communing with the Lord in prayer, or creating disciples out of those who do believe, or working on our own personal holiness. Let us commend ourselves and one another unto Christ our Lord.
May the grace of the Lord be with you all, my beloved family. Christ is risen!