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Am I Ashamed of the Gospel?

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I recently attended a municipal gathering to discuss ways to improve our local community. After the formal presentations, the floor was opened for questions and concerns from the audience.

A middle aged man approached the mic to inform us that all the problems we face, not only locally but on a global scale, could be solved if we confess Jesus as Lord and accept him as savior. The moderator had to curtail his comments after the scriptural proofs he presented began to run long.

Afterwards, I overheard two people praise him for his bold witness saying how good it was to hear from “a brother in the Lord”.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced similar occurrences, but I wonder if the reactions of this blog’s readers are more alike or different from my own—embarrassment.

Commissioned to Proclaim

We were meant to tell others the Good News. Our founder said so:

“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’”—Mark 16:15

And when this gospel (Good News) is preached, we are not to be ashamed:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…”—Romans 1:16

The Church herself enjoins us to boldly deliver the sacred message:

“From this loving knowledge of Christ springs the desire to proclaim him, to ‘evangelize’, and to lead others to the ‘yes’ of faith in Jesus Christ.”—Catechism of the Catholic Church #429

So why oh why did I feel this way? Since the event, I’ve thought long and hard. Was I embarrassed for him? For me? For the audience? For the presenters? Was the source of embarrassment my Roman Catholicism or my social introversion?

Was it the messenger?

Was the source of my embarrassment the man himself? I don’t think so because he was unremarkable in every way. By this I mean nothing stood out. His appearance was tidy and he spoke eloquently. If he were disheveled and drunkenness slurred his speech, it would definitely make me cringe. But he was neither intoxicated nor unkempt.

In fact, I imagined an elderly woman and a teenager both delivering the same message and asked myself if I would be equally embarrassed. The answer—yes. The messenger is exonerated.

Was it the message?

Without having spoken to the man, I am pretty confident that we would disagree on the role the Sacrament of Baptism, the role of the Church and the role “works” play in one’s salvation. We would also dissent on whether or not salvation could be guaranteed. Putting all that aside, could I stand next to what he said? Absolutely. We all need a relationship with Jesus Christ and the Bible is full of examples that say so. His message is impeccable.

If it’s not the messenger or the message, then why did his words make me blush?

Location, Location, Location.

It’s not the messenger that I found embarrassing, nor the content of the message, it was the context. I don’t think a municipal gathering convening at 7 PM on a weekday to address civic problems is the time or place to “preach the Gospel” to a captive audience. Those in attendance have not been given the choice whether or not to hear the message.

God created man with free will. A testimony to God’s greatness is that he does not force us to love him or even listen to him:

“God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. ‘God willed that man should be “left in the hand of his own counsel,” so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him.”’”—Catechism of the Catholic Church #1730

Our free will is an inextricable component of our human dignity:

“The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in religious and moral matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of man.”—Catechism of the Catholic Church #1747

Granted, if someone at the meeting were to have asked me about my faith or salvation, I would have been happy to share the Gospel message. But not to a room full of unsuspecting parents desperate to get home, have dinner, put their kids to bed and prepare for school and work the next day.

But then again…

Who am I to dictate the appropriate time to speak of God’s mercy and salvation? Perhaps there was someone in the meeting that needed to hear that message and this man was more open to the Spirit’s prompting than I will ever be. Maybe I lack a fervor, urgency and zeal for souls that he epitomizes. Or my embarrassment may be my subconscious justifying my shyness. Or it may be an adherence to the age-old admonition never to discuss religion or politics.

How about you? Obviously it is the Spirit that ultimately turns hearts to God, but is a silent, subtle witness more effective than a more overt, vociferous one? Have you ever been in a situation like this? How did you feel? Embarrassed? Encouraged? Exasperated? Euphoric? Were his comments appropriate? Untimely? Are we too timid as Catholics? Share and let’s learn together!

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Dan Gonzalez is both author and designer of the MassExplained blog and MassExplained iPad app. Through fun games and colorful flash cards, Dan's new app, Catholic Word & Games, teaches Catholic vocabulary to children. His design work can be seen at AmpersandMiami.com. Visit AgnusGiftShop.com to browse his Catholic t-shirt line. Dan's reversion story can be read here.

10 Comments

  1. Edge

    November 10, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    The embarrassment that you and others feel is due to the conditioning we have received from society. The enemy who is the devil, has convinced society as a whole to be silent on the topic of God and his sovereign right as King of Kings.

    Have you not heard, you can practice your religion in the church buildings, but keep it there and out of the public square. If we believe that Jesus is the King ing of Kings, then why would we want to fail to discuss him in politics? A king, a mayor, a president, they are all leaders, and Jesus is the Supreme leader. Look at the documents from the founders of this country and you will see they had faith in God, and it was what directed them in personal and political life. Even in the century that just past, there were those in government who tried to keep God in the forefront by making “In God we Trust” the motto on the dollar, and adding “one nation under God” to our pledge of allegiance.

    Sure, we can remain silent just like those who despise God want us to be. That would please the devil and help that fallen angel to advance his plan to remove God completely from all public places. OR, we can let it be known that Christ who has died and has risen is the King of Kings. Our country was founded and initially ran with full public knowledge that it was by the hand and mercy of God that we existed. Look at the whole picture here, and you will see when talking about God and Jesus in the public square (especially in politics) that country falls. This has been the case throughout time, and it is happening all over the world today.

    God is being evicted from all public places so He will seem insignificant in our private lives. When God is taken from the public discussion, what fils the void? How many sports players can you name? How many politicians can you name? How many saints can you name? When was the last time you had a water cooler discussion about St. Philip Neri or St. Joan of Arc?

    Don’t discus politics or religion, yah – some serpent tried to get me to eat that fruit as well, I decline.

  2. Maria Hamm

    November 7, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    Thanks Dan for having posted this discussion. I have been in similar situations and I agree that embarrassment would have probably been my feeling also. Why? Because the message of Christ and a personal relationship with him, while being the most important message of all– is to be preached to willing ears– not by hijacking a meeting. But I also agree with Steve Koob– that we must discern in prayer when to talk and when to stay quiet. We also know that God uses everything– so who knows maybe someone there was moved. I would simply pray for the presenter and all those present and continue with my purpose for being there.

  3. Rose Marie Doyle

    November 5, 2014 at 12:52 am

    So glad you asked your question. I appreciated Dick’s counsel and example of readiness “to preach the gospel of peace,” and Steve’s wisdom to make an organic and appropriate appeal to the gospel when the opportunity arises. None of us wants to be like the proverbial bull in a china closet, doing more harm than good, with our witness and our message. I can well understand your embarrassment, but let none of us fail to step up when an opportunity presents itself.

    • Dan Gonzalez

      November 5, 2014 at 2:59 pm

      Thanks for writing, Rose! your comment reminds me of this scripture:

      “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”-1 Peter 3:15

      We must be prepared when someone ASKS. And our response must be with “gentleness and respect.” All china closets safe and sound!

  4. Monica Benninghoff

    November 4, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    I, too, would have been embarrassed and probably a bit irked. A municipal gathering is not the place for an extended witness talk about the need for everyone to have a relationship with Christ AND the supporting Scriptural proofs. I can see it doing more harm than good. Imagine all the different faiths represented in the room, as well as those who fervently have NO faith. You might expect to see an initiative soon to have talk of God banned from municipal meetings.

    • Dan Gonzalez

      November 5, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Monica! Most people adhere to social norms—beliefs about how group members should behave in a given context. When he said what he did, I think he broke the social norms. If he would have stood up and given his opinion about Obama, the trade embargo on Cuba or why prosciutto is the best deli meat, I would have also been embarrassed. It’s not what the meeting was about or why the people agreed to be there.

      If the group dismisses him as being “crazy” or a “fanatic” then it just gives people who were on the fence about Christianity proof to discount all Christians as being “crazy” or “fanatics”. So I agree, it can be a step backwards.

  5. Dick

    November 4, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Lay Catholics are notoriously reticent to evangelize. I have heard it said that if you cross a Jehovah’s Whitness with a Roman Catholic, you will get someone who rings the doorbell and says nothing.

    One individual solution might be to address this in the intentions you declare for the third decade of the rosary when you pray the Glorious Mysteries. Announce that this mystery is the descent of the Holy Spirit, and pray for “opportunities to evangelize, and the grace to be effective when I do.”

    This has helped me to walk the fine line between fulfilling our obligation to evangelize, and minimizing the discomfort that those who are unreceptive may be forced to endure.

    • Dan Gonzalez

      November 5, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      There is a Walgreens right at the corner of my house and each morning I drive to work, I see at least seven Jehovahs Witness gather there with black briefcases in hand. Oh that we were half as dedicated to Evangelization!

      Excellent counsel, Dick. Take all things to prayer:
      • For the opportunity to evangelize
      • The grace to be effective when the opportunity arises

      Thank you for reading my post and for taking the time to comment!

  6. Steve Koob

    November 4, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    Hi Dan,
    Interesting situation and question. I can understand your embarrassment. I think I might have had a tinge myself, but I would also have been impressed with his zeal, at least as long as his message was short.
    I think his message could have been shorter and broader–an appeal for return to the Judeo-Christian values that shaped our country’s founding–for example. Then some teaching on how those values would have affected the particular problems the meeting was addressing.
    Blessings to you.

    • Dan Gonzalez

      November 4, 2014 at 9:09 pm

      As always, Steve, great observation! I agree. If his message would have ended with something actionable and relevant to the meeting’s topic, then it would have been flowing and organic. As it actually transpired, however, his comment had little relevance to what had preceded or the reason why they opened the floor for discussion.

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