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CN 5 TN A: Not with Apologetics but with Testimonies (Epistle)

A certain man who used to live a life of gambling and drinking got converted to Christ. His workmates, who used to hang out with him, tried to tease him. "Surely a sensible man like you cannot believe in the miracles that the Bible tells about. You cannot, for instance, believe that this Jesus of yours turned water into wine." The man’s reply was, "Whether he turned water into wine or not I do not know, but in my own house I have seen him turn beer into furniture." The strongest argument in defence of the Christian faith can be made not in so many words but by showing the practical difference faith makes in people’s lives. No one can argue against the proof of a changed life.

In today’s 2nd reading Paul recalls his ministry among the Corinthians. “My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4). As a Jewish rabbi, Paul had been trained in the art of making religious speeches and debates. His skill in public speaking can be seen in his presentation of the faith to the learned society of Athens gathered in the Areopagus (Acts 17). There, Paul, in a very creative manner, broke down the Christian faith in philosophical terms in order to impress his learned audience. But the result he achieved was disappointing. His sophisticated and logical presentation of the faith could not convince his audience. Instead, they made fun of him and said “We will hear you again about this” (Acts 17:32). Paul must have resolved and said to himself, “Never again!”

After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth” (Acts 18:1). Paul did not come to Corinth “proclaiming the mystery of God ... in lofty words or wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:1) as he had tried to do in Athens. Instead he kept to simply telling the story of Jesus Christ, and him crucified (verse 2). The crucified Lord whom Paul did not mention even once in his speech to the philosophers in Athens now becomes the central theme of Paul’s preaching. He stopped preaching about something and began preaching about someone.

What happens when we lift Jesus up in our ministry? What happens is that Jesus himself begins to act. Jesus himself said, “When I am lifted up ... I will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). This is what happened with Paul in Corinth. Because he lifted Jesus up in his preaching, Jesus began to draw all people to himself. Jesus began to move mightily among the people of Corinth such that the people of Corinth came to believe not on account of Paul’s eloquence but on the strength of the power of the living God moving in their midst and acting in their lives. As Paul says, he adopted a Christ-centred way of presenting the faith in Corinth “so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5). Paul’s ministry in Corinth became a resounding success, as opposed to his ministry in Athens.

Have you ever tried to share your faith with someone? How did you go about it? Did you go about it by trying to convince them that your beliefs are correct and theirs wrong? Such a logical defence of the faith is called apologetics. Apologetics is sometimes necessary in presenting the faith, especially to those who attack the faith with intellectual arguments. It often reassures the believer but does not always convert the unbeliever. A more effective way of presenting the faith is to tell the simple story of Jesus dying for us and to share your story of the amazing blessings that faith has brought into your life. This is called giving testimony or bearing witness.

What Paul is sharing with us today is that giving personal testimony or telling our own stories of what Jesus means for us in our lives is a more effective way of sharing the faith with others than bookish arguments. Everyone can tell stories. You do not need a special training to be able to tell your own story of the faith. By nature we are story-tellers. Let us use our story-telling abilities to spread the good news of the kingdom of God as Paul did.

 

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

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