You’re sitting down for your family Thanksgiving meal. All of your brothers and sisters and some aunts and uncles and cousins have gathered together at mom and dad’s house for this annual feast. You’ve been looking forward to this for weeks. But, even before the first slice of turkey is cut, your brother, Jim – a fallen-away Catholic now Evangelical – pipes up with, “Why do you Catholics worship Mary? Don’t you know that’s contrary to the Word of God?”
All of a sudden the dining room fills with a cacophony of complaints: “Oh, c’mon…not here!” “Really, do we have to start this up again?!” “Can’t we eat one Thanksgiving meal in peace?!” In the past, your voice would have been adding to the litany of complaints. But not this time.
“Hold on a second. Jim is raising a valid point.” The room goes quiet in a hurry and all eyes are now on you. Your cousin Mark says, “What do you mean he has a valid point?” “Well, he does a valid point. That is, if Catholics actually worshipped Mary, it would indeed be contrary to the Word of God. But, Catholics don’t actually worship Mary. Let me ask you this, Jim: In the Word of God it says that all generations will call Mary “blessed”. Do you call her “blessed”?
Jim: “Well…I mean…she…uh…well, not all the time.
You: “Admit it, Jim, since leaving the Church you have never called Mary “blessed”…not once. So, you are actually the one going contrary to the Word of God. Furthermore, let me ask you this: Did Jesus love, honor, cherish, and respect His mother?”
Jim: “Of course He did!”
You: “Are we, as Christians, called to imitate Jesus’ life with our lives?”
Jim: “Well, yeah, but…”
You: “So if we love, honor, cherish, and respect Mary as Jesus did, would you say that is the same thing as ‘worshipping’ her?
At this point, Jim has nothing to say. So you continue: “Let me ask you something else that I’ve always been curious about, Jim. You believe in Sola Fide – salvation by faith alone, right?”
Jim: “Absolutely! It’s how we are saved. Grace alone by faith alone in Jesus alone!”
You: “Yeah, right. So, here’s my question: Since we’re saved by faith and faith alone, then that means, by definition, that love has absolutely nothing to do with our salvation. It reminds me of Tina Turner’s song, “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” I don’t have to love God or love my fellow man and I can still be saved, as long as I have faith. Right?”
Now all eyes are on Jim. He takes a drink of water and asks for the rolls to be passed to him as he needs a minute to collect himself.
Jim: “Well, if a person is truly saved they will love God.”
You: “Where does the Bible say that?
You: “The Bible nowhere says that Besides, I’m not talking about after a person is saved, I’m talking about what it takes for a person to be saved in the first place. Your dogma of Sola Fide, by definition, excludes love as being a part of a person’s salvation. Your theology teaches that a person can be saved as long as they simply accept Jesus into their heart as their personal Lord and Savior. Does it make any sense whatsoever that you don’t have to love God in order to be saved? Because, if you have to love God in order to be saved, then it’s not salvation by faith “alone”! It’s salvation by faith and love. Which is exactly what the Catholic Church teaches, as does the Bible. Just look at Galatians 5:6.”
You then tell Jim that if he wants to continue the conversation, you would be happy to do so after dinner and then you look around the table at everyone and ask, “Can we say Grace?”
Okay, what three tips can we take away from this Catholic/Protestant conversation?
3 Tips For Catholics To Talk To Protestant Family
1) You don’t need to give long involved explanations in response to questions you get asked by Protestants. The longer the answer – i.e., the more you talk – the more they can then find to pick apart and object to and take the conversation down all sorts of different rabbit trails. Give a short, concise answer, that is rife with common sense and logic. And you can throw in a little Scripture, too, if you want. You can also do what Jesus often did: answer a question with a question, or questions, which is essentially what happened here.
2) Go on the offense. This follows up on Tip #1. Don’t let the other folks just pump you with question after question. Ask some questions of your own. Make them explain what they believe and why they believe it. And, as they attempt to do so, ask them more questions based on what they say.
3) Don’t try to convert anyone. You and I do not convert anyone, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Our job is to simply sow the seeds. So plant seeds. That’s what was going on with Jim at the Thanksgiving dinner. Questions were asked that made Jim have to think about his beliefs. Seeds were planted. Whether those seeds bear fruit or not…not up to you. You plant the seeds and then you pray.