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Witnessing to Catholics

Question: I have many friends who are devout Roman Catholics. Is there any way that we could indirectly reveal to them about the errors the Roman Church teaches them and not have them offended? Thanks for any suggestions you can share.

Answer: I thank God for your concern for the salvation of your Roman Catholic friends. I also commend your good attitude in that you don't want to offend them unnecessarily. I am dismayed when I read some supposedly Christian websites intended for Catholics which only reflect bitterness and animosity. They cannot be excused on the grounds that many Catholic websites demonstrate a similar bitter spirit. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Since we love Catholics we ought to speak with evident kindness, gentleness and humility.

On the other hand, we may be so discreet and diplomatic that they don't even realize that there is any significant problem, especially today, with the modern attitude of "tolerance" (meaning, of course, that it does not really matter what anyone believes as long as he or she is sincere!). If we want to communicate the truth, we must be speak very clearly. Whether we like it or not, we will offend our listeners. The Gospel always offends sinners (whatever their religion) because it challenges their moral and intellectual pride. Jesus was the most loving man who ever lived on this planet, and yet, He offended many people by telling them the truth. The Gospel offended us too, and there was a time when we resisted it with all our might.

How, then should we witness to Catholics? The apostle Peter gives the best advice:

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15).

First, we must be living in confident trust and obedience to God. To live in submission to the Lordship of Christ is the best witness we can ever give to the world. That kind of living provokes unbelievers to ask questions.

When the opportunity arises, we must be ready to answer. "Be ready." We must know the Gospel and how to share it. Following the example of Christ and His apostles, they did not merely present positive truths; they often contrasted their teaching with the false teachings of their hearers. Don't be afraid to do so. It is helpful to know how Catholics think and what they believe. Read a good book on Catholicism (such as The Gospel According to Rome). It is also useful to go directly to their sources - the creeds, the councils and catechisms. I get tired of Christians who continually misrepresent Catholicism and then expect Catholics to give them any credence. By the way, many ordinary Catholics are also unaware what their church really teaches (and you’ll find yourself in the awkward situation teaching Catholics what they ought to believe!). However do not merely expose error. You must present the Lord Jesus Christ is His sufficiency, mercy and power to save.

Finally, note Peter's advice on our attitude: "with meekness and fear." There is no place for the vitriolic and hostile language we often hear. There was a time when I eagerly engaged in a heated debate. But when I wanted to speak to my parents whom I love so dearly, and whom I really wanted to be saved, I spoke with gentleness and great respect. That is the way we ought to speak to every person.

© Dr Joseph Mizzi