People differ, a well-known truth. In dialogue and witness it is good to be aware of this and to observe and learn about the person with whom you are speaking. In no way is such close attention to the other to lead to a patronizing or contemptuous opinion of that person. You may learn about an individual’s concerns, burdens, fears, and joys, if you listen and do not stereotype. Such knowledge should not be weaponized to use against a person, but to help come to a greater understanding of the other. We should care about our neighbor and even our enemies.
We should try to understand the unbeliever and atheist. The atheist may be a convinced secular materialist that comes from the conclusions he forms from his education and reading. Other atheists may bear a deep sadness in their lives that prevents them from believing in God and His Christ. Questions of theodicy often play a role. How can a good God permit the evil that is in the world? is the central question. Due to life experience, people who have believed in God become unbelievers, though a tragic event in one’s life does not necessarily lead to atheism. Some peoples’ faith after a tragedy can actually be strengthened, often after great struggle in which they are torn between belief and unbelief.
But, what if you meet up with one who is actually evil? Pray that the works of the Holy Spirit may work in you. They are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. You must also be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove. The evil can be very cunning but can be won over.
When engaged in apologetics, be concerned for the person or persons with whom you are speaking. Be careful of pre-judgments. Do not be dismissive of them. Remember that souls are at stake, nothing less.
Michael G. Tavella
September 17, 2019
Hildegard of Bingen, Abbess