Do not dispute over the truth with someone who does not know the truth; but from the person who is eager to know the truth, do not withhold words from him.St.Isaac The Syrian, 7th century A.D
As Christians it’s crucial we do not lose our peace in the process of trying to save the other. If this happens then both of us become lost. The two people arguing become like the blind men who fell into a pit. Approaching people with the truth and attempting to dispute with them over it is useless. The reason it is of no benefit whatsoever is that they’ve already made their minds up when it comes to Christianity.
Furthermore, disputing the truth with a headstrong and stubborn mind when we do not possess the intelligent virtue of love, means we will lose our peace. The reason we lose our cool in a dispute is that we are full of pride. The conversation has devolved into one where we simply want to score points and be victorious as opposed to helping the other person. When we become upset at the thought of losing ground in a discussion it is because we are afraid of losing our supposedly good name and image in the presence of all the spectators.
St.Isaac the Syrian does not mean to say we should never approach someone with the truth. However, the beatings St.Paul received in the new testament from doing so is active proof of how difficult it is. What St.Isaac means is that to enter into a long dispute with someone rigid in their ways is of no benefit to anyone neither the listener nor the speaker.
It is only when a person is eager to know the truth should we feed them with more of it. Once, when my wife was in the hospital with cancer I took care of my baby boy. I had been feeding him in the high chair. He did not want to eat his jar of food. “Come on now, eat the food”. He pursed his lips tightly shut and would not receive the spoon. I tried to forced it into him and when I managed to breach his lips he took the food and spat it back out at me.
It was at this point with a face full of gooey baby food that I lost my cool for a moment. I walked away to take a breather and realized that there’s really no point. Only when he is hungry will he eat it.
Do you see? When approaching adults in the secular world with the food of Christ it is a dangerous task. You’re dealing with big babies who are not hungry for Christianity. They don’t want it. If you press yourself upon them they will simply spit it back into your face. This is why Jesus says we shouldn’t cast pearls (the sacraments of the faith and truth of the Gospel) before the pigs because they will only trample on them and throw them back at you.
Never try to teach a pig how to sing, it only wastes your time and it irritates the pig. Stop trying to teach pigs how to sing…. waste of time. It is only when someone is hungry for Jesus does it make sense to feed them. They are not hungry today, but maybe through your prayers, they will be hungry tomorrow. The key is patience and to make sure you yourself are full of the Holy Spirit before engaging in discussions. If you find that you’re losing your peace in a discussion even though you have the high ground and they are not receptive. . . walk away.
St.Anthony the great advises us that we should only converse with a person once, twice and on the third rebuke if they’re still not listening to walk away from them. Leave them to the merciful hands of God who may one day fill them with the Grace to be capable of receiving the truth. Love them and see that they are sick and that the only doctor who can heal them now is Jesus Christ.