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How to respond to people who question your faith

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Unsure about what to say when your faith is questioned? Here are six things to keep in mind…

Jesus Christ sent his disciples to announce the Good News to all the nations. Whether it’s across the globe or in your own backyard, the Gospel message has always been passed on from one person to another. We know this and yet still lack confidence when it comes to sharing our faith. Our hesitation is usually rooted in one of two things: Either we’re unsure what approach to take with the person, or the motives of the other person are unclear.

The person asking you the questions

Let’s first talk about the person who’s asking the questions, rather than the questions themselves. No questions are bad, but the state of mind of the person asking can make all the difference. Are they asking questions for the purpose of being better informed, or is it for the purpose of trying to trip you up?

Jesus Himself experienced similar situations. The way He answered questions can shed light on how we respond. Jesus never hesitated to give answers. John the Baptist wondered: “Are you the One that is to come, or should we look for another?” (Lk 7:19) and a young man approached Him with a question about eternal life and on how to achieve it (Mat 19:16). The same with the magistrate who tried to test Jesus and Jesus told him the parable on the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25). In all of these cases, those who approached Jesus sought His answer. And this answer transformed their lives. 

Following the example of Jesus

However, Jesus was extremely reserved with those who had less honest or honorable intentions. King Herod wished to see him perform a miracle. “Then he questioned him with many words; but he answered him nothing”(Lk 23:9). At the risk of his life, Jesus chose to remain absolutely silent. There are those who wished to see a sign. Jesus, who had performed a great number of miracles, refused to satisfy their curiosity. He knew that even if they saw a miracle, it would not transform their lives: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead”(Lk 16:31). He referred them back to their faith, for even a clear answer does not dispense anyone from needing faith.   

When Jesus sensed he was being tricked, he became more obstinate. When the Jewish authorities asked him by whose authority He acted, Jesus wished to initiate a discussion with them. They refused. So, He told them that He wouldn’t answer them either (Lk 20:8). And even worse, when people conspired to “entangle him” with their words concerning whether they should or should not pay taxes, Jesus perceiving the trap came up with his own. He told them: “Why are you tempting me, you hypocrites?” (Matt 22:18). And He answered them by referring them to their own words.  

What attitude should you assume?

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We too, should learn how to distinguish between questions that aim at destabilizing us or publicly ridiculing us and the call for help. For as important as it is to respect those asking the questions, it’s often pointless to embark on a discussion that only results in division. Perhaps a person asking you a question is genuinely interested in hearing your answer. It would be a pity to miss an opportunity. But perhaps, neither the time nor the place is right to give your answer. In this case you can always pray. The recourse to the intervention of the Holy Spirit is worth more than sterile polemics.

In all other situations, you need to be ready for the challenge and not forget these powerful words of our Lord: “He that hears you hears me” (Lk 10:16); “He that receives whomever I send receives me” (John 13:20). When you’re talking to someone who asks about our Faith, it’s not of yourself that you should tell but of Him! It is He who sends you and it is He who questions you. You should pray in your heart, saying: “Lord, let it be you who speaks, not me!” 

We are the messengers

We are only instruments that the Holy Spirit uses. As instruments, we can be effective if we are obedient and humble. We must demonstrate an infinite respect for the one who seeks God and remember that it is the Lord that speaks through us. He merely asks that we throw a few sprigs on the fire that we did not light. Providing numerous arguments becomes pointless, as if our own reasoning could lead to conversion. This is why sharing your own spiritual journey and love for God is often more effective than anything else. The attitude we must have is that of servants, and not of people who wish to impose our own ideas.

A sign that God send us

If someone questions you about your faith, rejoice! It is a sign that the Lord has sent you to this person. “And when they bring you into the synagogues and before magistrates and powers take no thought of how or what you are to say …” (Lk 12:11).

So don’t worry about what to say — instead, focus on truly loving the Lord and the person He has placed on your path. The reality of His presence will depend on your presence. He Himself will take care of the rest. 

Father Alain Quilici

 

 

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