Generally, when we deliver good news, we receive a positive response. Hearing something good usually makes people happy. Since the message of Jesus Christ is referred to as the “Good News”, it’s logical that sharing that message will result in the same joyful reaction…NOT! Those of us who try to share Christ’s message know all too well that we are often met with anger and resistance.
In reality, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. The words of Jesus in the Bible are very clear:
“You will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Matthew 10:22)
“If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of His household” (Matthew 10:25)
“But take heed to yourselves; for they will deliver you up to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony to them.” (Mark13:9)
When it comes to evangelization, rejection is nothing new. The prophets, Saints and even Jesus all experienced their fair share of rejection. The important lesson for us is to remember that just because someone doesn’t want to hear the truth doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t deliver it. When commissioning the Apostles, Jesus instructed them to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe ALL that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) The Church extends this mission to all baptized Catholics and, like the Apostles, we are called to share the FULL truth, not just the “fun stuff” with those around us.
As you might imagine, I’ve heard my share of insults and accusations. Over the years, I have noticed a pattern and here is a list of the 5 most common charges that I’ve heard. If you share your faith regularly, there’s a good chance you’ll be hearing some of these as well. To help you prepare, I’ve come up responses that will help you to counter the attack:
1. Judge Not And You Will Not Be Judged (Luke 6:37) - Although it’s used frequently, this one doesn’t stand up to the logic test. Think about it for a minute – if you’re telling me that we shouldn’t make moral judgments on someone’s behavior, how can you accuse me of being judgmental? Aren’t you judging me? Obviously, this isn’t what Jesus meant when He made this statement. Looking at His words in context gives us a clearer picture of the true meaning. Just prior to this statement, the Lord stressed the need for us to be merciful to others, as the Father is merciful to us (Luke 6:32-36). If pointing out someone’s sinful behavior in order to save them from potential damnation isn’t merciful, I don’t know what is! He then tells a parable about the “blind leading the blind” and cautions against attempting to remove the speck from our brother’s eye before removing the plank from our own (Luke 6:39-42). In other words, don’t try to point out your brother’s minor faults before correcting your own major defects. Note that Jesus doesn’t say “do not correct your brother”, but says instead “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:42)
2. Let He Who Is Without Sin Cast The First Stone (John 8:7) – A rough translation of this accusation (according to those who use it) is “if you’re a sinner too, you can’t comment on my behavior”. Is Jesus telling us that we can never point out someone’s wrongdoing as long as we have sins? Not at all! In fact he recommends “if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” (Matthew 18:15). Given that, what does Jesus mean when he talks about casting the first stone? Once again, let’s look at the facts. The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus, not for a legitimate reason, but rather to “test Him that they might have some charge to bring against Him”. (John 8:6) By looking at St. John’s words, we see that these individuals weren’t looking for justice, but rather for a way to trap Jesus! By responding with the familiar line “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7), Christ stopped them in their tracks and highlighted their hypocritical behavior. Finally, proving it really is acceptable to lovingly urge someone to stay out of trouble, the Lord’s parting words to the woman were “do not sin again”. (John 8:11)
3. What Right Do You Have To Tell Me That? – Usually paired with “you’re not a priest” or “I’m Catholic too and I don’t see anything wrong with it”, this statement focuses on the messenger and not the message. People don’t like to be told that their behavior is sinful, especially when they’re having a lot of fun. Catholics REALLY hate this because for many years they’ve gotten used to leaving their faith in Church and don’t expect to be challenged by one of their peers. It’s not as bad when it comes from a priest or deacon, because “it’s their job to say things like that”. In reality, every baptized Catholic is called to share in the prophetic ministry of Christ. This requires us to preach a message of repentance at times. Two of the spiritual works of mercy are “admonish the sinner” and “instruct the ignorant”. Note that there is no disclaimer stating that these works of mercy are only to be exercised by priests and religious. If we see someone (especially a close friend or family member) doing something seriously wrong, it is our duty to charitably let them know. If they were unaware that it’s wrong, then we are “instructing the ignorant”. If they are aware, then we are “admonishing the sinner”. If we don’t say anything, we could be held accountable. In any of these cases, we just might be saving a soul!
4. Don’t Try To Force Your Beliefs On Me! – Taken at face value, the Church would agree with this statement. The Vatican II document Dignitatus Humanae states that “It is one of the major tenets of Catholic doctrine that man’s response to God in faith must be free: no one therefore is to be forced to embrace the Christian faith against his own will.” The problem with this accusation, however, is that it usually doesn’t mean that one is being forced to believe in something against their will. It really means “I don’t want to hear what the Church has to say”. While we certainly shouldn’t “force” our beliefs on others, we shouldn’t remain silent either. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul is very clear about the need for evangelization:
But how are men to call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14)
For too long, Catholics have been apathetic about evangelization. We have gotten used to not venturing out of our comfort zones. If we believe (as we should) that the Catholic Church possesses the fullness of truth, then we should be anxious to share the truth with others.
5. The Catholic Church Is Corrupt – Unlike the previous four accusations (which are personal attacks), this one shifts the focus to the Church and uses a broad brush approach to discredit any and all of her teachings. Although easy to refute, this accusation needs to be treated with much sensitivity. Generally this charge refers to the clergy abuse scandal which has shaken the faith of many Catholics. Pointing out the small number of priests involved doesn’t usually diffuse the argument, as the very idea of coverups and disgraceful behavior by men of God and those in authority is repulsive. The key to responding to this accusation can actually be found in the Bible. The first thing to remember is that the Church was founded by Christ and will not be “going away” (Matthew 16:18). Secondly, Jesus chose twelve Apostles as the leaders of His Church. Our bishops are the successors of these Apostles. Two of the twelve betrayed the Lord (Peter and Judas) and all but one (John) deserted Him at the crucifixion. Since He was God, Jesus knew in advance what these men would do and He chose them anyway. As a result, we can see an example of less then desirable behavior among the earliest priests and leaders of the Church. The Church on earth is made up of sinners, but that doesn’t take away the fact that she was founded by Our Lord as the vehicle necessary for our salvation. Never discount the Lord’s ability to “write straight with crooked lines”.
If you’ve been accused of any these things – Congratulations! You’re probably doing a good job of spreading the Gospel. If you haven’t heard them, keep spreading the “Good News” and you will. Although we’re called to be charitable, we’re also called to help advance God’s Kingdom by sharing the truth. Don’t become frustrated when people attack you for doing so. Just be patient, keep planting seeds and let God take it from there!
What do you think? Did I miss any accusations? Which ones have you heard and how did you respond? Let me know!
“If you’re not a thorn in somebody’s side, you’re not doing Christianity right.” (Mother Angelica)