If a person’s faith is not strong enough, welcome him all the same without starting an argument.Romans:14:1
St.Paul here is mostly dealing with the scrupulous Christians who have all sorts of opinions. Their faith isn’t that great. St.Paul instructs that some Christians who think some days should be held more Holy while others treat every day as Holy, should be left to their own opinion. According to St.Paul, it’s really no big deal that one guy is a meat eater and the next only eats vegetables. Nobody is offending God if they eat meat, and nobody offending God if they omit it from their diet.
On the other hand this passage from St.Paul can work as good advice to Christians welcoming newcomers to their Church. I’ve seen many newcomers with a weak faith leave because someone with more faith than them has turned them off Christianity. There are Christians who approach them and end up arguing with them over a doctrine they happen to be particularly weak on.
This is why St.Paul says we shouldn’t start arguments with someone like that, who are not ready for strong reproofs. They become stiff as their pride is at its peak in the beginning stages of their spiritual growth. In fact, even many Christian clergy who have received spiritual direction from the great saints can’t deal with reproof so how is a newcomer going to behave? They can’t stand the heat of it and walk away that’s how they behave. Other newcomers may not offer a counter argument and be good listeners out of embarrassment of hearing their own voice, but in their hearts are thinking, “This guy is nuts”. I’ll give some examples.
I had one woman who came on pilgrimage with us to Medjugorje 10 years ago. She was always rattling on about some vision she’d had and the education she’d received regarded exorcisms. It was getting to the point that my patience was beginning to casually erode at listening to it. There was a young man who had come on pilgrimage also, and he was in a wheelchair with a permanent disability. He came in the hopes of finding a cure.
One day in the heat of the afternoon we sat in the dining hall having lunch. I enjoyed sitting beside him because I always feel that those who are suffering are closest to God. I was not present when it happened, but when I came back the mood at the table was quite somber.
Asking what the problem was he explained, “That lady over there told me that my illness is the result of a demon, and that there’s a demon in me.” It troubled him, and it was spiritually too intense for his weak mind to understand. I sympathized greatly with him. This woman is an example of how knowledge in the hands of a fool can be devastating just like money in the hands of a stupid person.
It is true that God allows some illnesses to happen of their own accord and that others are the result of sin and demons. But you don’t say it to someone who is not ready to hear that as they take it the wrong way, and it’s a rather frightening thing to say to them. Other newcomers like to argue on social doctrines like the Churches position on homosexuality.
It’s important not to argue at any length and redirect the conversation into something more healthy. Newcomers shouldn’t really be encouraged to focus on the intellectual stuff as much as they should their relationship with Christ. First comes the relationship and trust developed with Christ through prayer, then after a time, they’ll be more ready to accept the more heavy stuff. Consider what St.Paul says,
Brothers, I myself was unable to speak to you as people of the Spirit: I treated you as sensual men, still infants in Christ. ·What I fed you with was milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it; and indeed, you are still not ready for it ·since you are still unspiritual1 Corinthians: 3: 1-3
However, if we start arguing with them about big doctrines before they’ve achieved a relationship it wont work. Why? Because they’re already convinced of the secular explanation which is all they’ve ever known. You’re asking them to give up too soon something they’ve been brainwashed with by the secular world. How do you think someone like that who is a victim of “groupthink” is going to behave? They’re not really spiritual people, so we need to be mindful and respectful of that.
As St.Paul says, we need to be careful how we welcome those who are weak in faith, and not start arguments with them. Argue with those of whom you’ve prior knowledge to be able to handle an argument of that caliber. But as for newcomers, if you can’t redirect them into some other conversation, then it’s better you say nothing at all. Even though you have the knowledge to respond bite your tongue, swallow your desire to score points and be right. By doing this you show God that you’ve no interest in winning this person for yourself, but for Him alone.
It is necessary to be more strategic about we approach newcomers and in this one passage alone, St.Paul gives great advice. I hope you enjoyed this post and please consider sharing it with your fellow Christians on social media, as it makes me feel all this writing won’t be in vain. Thank you.