Mother Maryam received the following question:
The Bible says that we must evangelize! But our days are difficult now because we must respect people’s choices and the various sects?!… and my friend who does not believe in God but rather reason?! And everyone around us?! What should I do?! …. -Yara
And here is her answer (Arabic original can be found here):
The Bible says, in the words of the Lord and of His chosen apostle Paul, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” (2 Timothy 4:2)
What is evangelism for us? Is it talking about the Gospel and its word or preaching to those around us? Or is it us replying to the questions people ask us? Or do we live the life of the Gospel in silence, so that those around us will learn from our silence and our behavior? It is all these things!
The true Christian life is itself evangelism. One of the philosophers said, “Tell me how you live and I will tell you who you are.” So, evangelism is how we live. The Lord Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). The important thing is for the Lord our God to be blessed through our actions with those whom we meet in our daily life.
My daughter, be the shining lamp placed on the mountaintops to shine for others in the name of the Lord! Walk in true Christian love with those you interact with… starting with your husband at home, your children, your students, your friends…. Here I’d like to focus on that Christian friend who does not believe in anything other than science and who has lived her life scientifically… The most important thing you can do for her is praying for her, that she will return to knowledge of the Lord in her heart, since He said, “my son, give me your heart” (Proverbs 23:26).
Prayer has a ‘miraculous’ effect… If it comes from the depths of the heart and total reliance on the Holy Name, then it will bring this person to knowledge of the Lord through you!
Do not discuss faith with her, or she will take a defensive position about her opinions, especially if she is educated and has a scientific worldview… such people discuss faith viciously, because their god is reason! Just love her in silence and be a good model for her of the simple Christian life, perfected in the Lord Jesus… He is the fisherman who will catch her like a fish after nourishing her with His presence in the trials and paradoxes of her life…
You said, Yara, to start with, that we must respect people’s choices, their opinions and religions… You’re right, but don’t forget that any person on the face of the earth, when he sees the goodness of the table spread before him will approach it and eat from it. He will choose what his soul desires and he loves… In the Church we have a blessed, living banquet, richer than the whole world’s wealth!
We do not steal people for Christianity! However, we show them the goodness of our God and they will come to wonder and ask, “Who are these people? What is behind them? Who and how do they worship?” Let them know the truth!
“We are the preaching of the Gospel” in the gentle, kind, and loving way we treat others, in our tranquility, in our behavior, in our love for others regardless of their different religions or sects, in our holding fast to what our Church teaches, in our discussing with the ‘knowledgeable’ if the possibility of discussion is opened to us, in serving the needy, in giving to the poor and helping anyone seeking assistance, in our sober, loving behavior. Not in prideful divisiveness or avoiding sharing in others’ suffering, but in our human presence and most importantly in our prayer for all who cross our path without criticizing them.
You say that evangelism has become difficult today. This is true, but that’s the challenge! We are not better off today than the first Christians! They mingled with idolators and we today live with them. Do you not notice the idolatry of money and wealth, power, love of appearances, lying and confusion among us? And the other forms of worship that dilute and assault the true faith? Do you not notice the moral and sexual permissiveness, the heresies that affect all classes of people, rich and poor, educated and simple? Do you not witness the violence, drunkenness and wantonness, even among schoolchildren, which destroy moral, spiritual, and social values? Do you not fear the heresy of keeping up with the times, which separates the believer from his faith and cleaves him to false teaching? Do you not weep for the fracturing of the family, the splintering of children, the departure to far-off countries, and the abandonment of the faith? Do you not behold the domination of other religious which wipe out Christianity and kill the seriousness of those who strive for true worship of the Word of the Gospel?
“All the nations surrounded me and in the name of the Lord I conquered them” (Psalm 117:10)
We are approaching the end of times… this is what the holy fathers in our Church say! Even this question was posed by those who surrounded Jesus, and He answered them! We do not know the times or the hours that the Lord has appointed for the end of times and the second coming of Christ… but we do know one thing, that we must remain alert and ready to receive Christ who became incarnate to save us from the Enemy!
This is how we must live, girding our loins and bearing the Gospel of Christ in our hearts and minds, following His steps, praying, fasting, blessing, weeping, repenting for our sins and the ignorance of the people…
Each one of us has his work in this life, but all of us are called to know the truth, that we have one Savior, in whom we know God the Father, the Creator, and through whom we come to Him. He is the second hypostasis or person of the Holy Trinity, the ray of the Father, equal to Him in essence and eternity from all ages, in whom we live and move and have our being. His name is Emmanuel, God is with us, Jesus Christ the Redeemer.
For Him we live, not for any other person, idea, or teaching. To Him alone is due worship. To Him we lift up glory and honor. From Him we await eternal salvation, for us and for all those in existence whom He has called on us to pray for and love!
May the Lord Jesus Christ keep you and yours and all your generation.
Mother Maryam Zakka
Abbess of the Monastery of St John the Baptist– Douma
December 19, 2010