Sunday, May 22
Ask Father: 3 Questions/3 Answers...
Question: How should I respond to people’s questions about the Faith?
Answer: It is always good to remember the words of Scripture. The Apostle Peter says: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason of the hope in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience...” (1Pe 3:15-16)
St. Peter gives us three practical things to do: 1) to seek the Lord’s help; praying fervently to Him from the heart that He might inspire both us and those we are speaking with; 2) to have the courage to share the reasons why we believe; and 3) to speak, “with meekness and fear; having a good conscience”.
Why meekness, fear, and a good conscience? Meekness because the Lord Himself is humble and doesn’t force anything on anyone. Fear because we ourselves are mere human beings and the things of God are mysterious and beyond our full comprehension. And a good conscience because we ourselves must be seeking to do what is right, seeking to follow the way of the Lord, if we are going to lead others in the same. If we can pass along the spirit of meekness, fear, and a good conscience, to the person we are speaking with, then they will have all the necessary prerequisites to learning the true Faith. Without this spirit, even the most perfect teaching from the most perfect Teacher will not be enough. We recall how some even departed from the Christ because they lacked meekness, fear of God, and a good conscience.
Question: But how can I help the person, if I don’t really know what to say?
Answer: Even if we can’t fully answer every question (and really, who can?), we can still help people by referring them to someone who might know a little more than us or to some profitable book on the subject. By so doing, they will be assured that what we are telling them is not our own personal belief but the universal teaching of the Church. And even if they never speak with the person we referred them to or never open the book we suggested, at the very least they will know that Orthodox Christianity is not about personal opinions but instead a common and universal witness to the Truth.
Question: But what if the conversation starts to turn argumentative?
Answer: Arguments about the Faith seldom bear fruit; the Christian life is communicated better by example than by argument. And so, if the conversation seems to turn argumentative, it might be best to follow the above advice and humbly refer the person to someone else or to some pertinent material on the subject in question.
By humbly removing ourselves from the conversation, we can actually help the person more than if we continued to debate them. This is because the person will more easily accept the answer to their question if they don’t have to swallow their pride by “giving in”. We all know how once a conversation turns into an argument, it can be less about the question and its answer than about who is going to “win” the debate. We should try to avoid this at all costs. Even if we might full well know the answer to the question, it could be that the person needs to hear the answer from someone other than us. Humbling taking ourselves out of an argument is not losing; it is giving a chance for the other person to be won over by the Lord.