St. Bernadette was quoted to have said, “My job is to inform, not to convince.” Key advice in a controversial world. Mention any of these topics and watch the comments explode: gay marriage, abortion, religious freedom, Christian persecution, state of Palestine, etc.
How many times have I found myself among others who didn’t understand my faith and they questioned and disagreed tirelessly. Whether or not they were friends, I found myself wracking my brain for scientific logic or ‘proof’ that what I believed was true. Really, I just wanted them to understand what I understood, as if I could save them myself. To no surprise, it was agony, because it doesn’t work that way.
I’m a bit of a perfectionist and competitive, so not winning an argument or even not proving my point is sometimes torture. (Just ask my poor husband!) When I came across that quote from St. Bernadette, I was instantly relieved. It was God’s message to me to stop fighting about a message that was meant for good. His love wasn’t meant to be a fight, nor was it meant to be received in one particular way. No mother loves each of her children in the same exact way, but we love them abundantly all! Sometimes God has people in different places for a reason, and sometimes He has a plan for them beyond, way beyond our understanding.
Granted, some arguments are completely worth arguing (such as abortion), you have to know when to brush the dust from your shoes (Mt 10:14) and move on. Of course in many cases you should keep praying! You’ve said what you can, the wall won’t budge and neither will you, now move on. We should neither be ashamed of the gospel nor should we misrepresent it by condemning those who disagree. It has turned so many further away from the Lord, and we don’t want that.
Please don’t think I’m pushing tolerance! Tolerance has its place sometimes, but people often mistake tolerance for love. Someone you love might be hurting himself, but you wouldn’t tolerate it if you truly loved him! You’d do what you can to help him. But if he kept on ignoring you, know that you’ve done what you can. Keep praying, but don’t create greater tension and anger. We are called to love and pray. (PS: if your friend is literally and physically hurting himself, go ahead and intervene!)
So how do we know the difference? Step back and listen to yourself. Is your tone angry or fervent with love? Are your words harsh or enthusiastic? Would you use these words against an enemy or towards a loved one? Check your body language. If someone took a picture of you, would you look angry, tense, or offended? Would you look concerned or as though you’re listening intently? Colossians 4:5-6 says, “Conduct yourselves wisely towards outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”
If you feel you’ve run a marathon in the comments a few too many times, it may be time to get off Facebook or Twitter or wherever you are and take some time with God. He will listen to you with love and help you work out whatever it is that needs working how. When I have a hard time with a particular person or topic, this is my go-to plan. Our Father always knows best, and He’s waiting for us to ask for His help.