I need some advice sharing the Christian faith with a semi hostile agnostic. I have a good working relation with her but we are not social outside of work. I have noticed over the years that she gets very upset if anything relating to the Christian faith comes up at work. The subject of religion and politics came up one day and we had a very friendly discussion in which she told me she could not see the logic in Christianity. Our discussion pretty much ended there and has not come up again for several weeks. I am thinking of giving her a copy of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis because I find the logic for Christianity very well presented in it. The school we work at closes in a few days and I was going to give it to her with a card. I am not sure what I should say in it so that I don’t make her feel like she has become some kind of project for me, or if this is the appropriate thing to do at all. Any advice?
If you feel compelled to do it then I would say go for it, let the Holy Spirit guide you. It is always a great opportunity to share our faith - even if it might be rejected. We are called to speak the truth, the rest is up to Him.
Most agnostics that I’ve talked with come up with the same line that goes something like this, “I am not a religious person,” or “I believe in God, not religion.” They make the equation that religion is just a set of constraints and rules meant to curtail their life. But think about it, everyone has a religion. We all have some sort of beliefs about the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe. Our religion is simply a map, our paradigm, our beliefs that answer the difficult questions about the meaning of life. Questions like; How did the universe come to be? Is the world a safe or hostile place? Why am I here? Is the universe random or is there a greater purpose for its existance? Is there anything after death. Everyone of us has thought about these things, some more than others. Even atheists are religious people because they too have their own answers to these questions, and sometimes these questions are more well thought out than the average pew-warming Catholic.
Here is a tip to get her to think about things. Ask her if she believes the world is a random event, or if there is a greater purpose for its existance. Or ask her what the purpose of her life is. She probably won’t answer you on the spot, because she is “spiritually lazy”, meaning she hasn’t taken the time to think the answers through. Asking her the questions may compell her to do that.
All of life is relational, both vertically (between you and God) and horizontally (between you and her). There is a old adage that says, ‘God has no grandchildren’. That means you do not develop a relationship with God, or anyone else for that matter, through other people or through hand-me-down doctrines or religions. Relationships have to be nurtured and developed if they are to grow and mature. Each of us have choices to make regarding what we believe and what those beliefs mean in our lives. I’ve heard it said that everyone has to do their own believing, just like everyone has to do their own dying.
If your co-worker IS looking for answers, she will find them, in time. Prepare yourself, as she may not be. You’re job is not to make her believe anything, but to open the door and invite her in. I’d recommend to starting with asking her about the core of what she believes about life, and take it from there as the situation warrants.
Walimu, my practical answer is; please be very careful proselytizing in the office. If your “friend” feels that you have ‘crossed the line’ then you may be in for a very unpleasant surprise. I know that you have your co-worker’s best interests in mind, but you must not make the work environment appear to be a hostile place.
You must be able to empathize with her position. I had a co-worker of the Mormon faith try to proselytize me, and it became very uncomfortable. I had to be very forceful in my objections. If that didn’t work I was prepared to go to a senior manager.
You say that you don’t have much social inter-action outside of work. You may want to change this. Invite her out for a cup of coffee after work. If she accepts the invitation this may be a sign that she is open to discuss the Church.
Your intentions are noble, but do get yourself in trouble and don’t interfere with someone’s ability to earn a living.
Bud, that was my fear. I was uncomfortable doing this in the workplace. She is the type that could complain to someone. This person has such a big heart but lacks an internal peace that often causes her to break down. I know the last thing she wants to think is that a coworker is trying to “save” her. She is very self concious about how other people precieve her.
Apologia, great questions. A lot of those questions are addressed in the C.S. Lewis book I was thinking about giving her. I have spent the last year or so relearning my Catholic faith. I can better explain the reasons for my beliefs but still hesitate to step out in faith and share with others. Maybe this guilt is driving me. Perhaps Bud is right, and I need to be patient and look for or create an opportunity in another setting.
[quote=Walimu]The school we work at closes in a few days and I was going to give it to her with a card.
Could you possibly mail the book to her home address? Then you are following your instincts (or perhaps prompting of the Holy Spirit) in giving her this book, but it is outside of the workplace. Just a simple note saying something like “Thought you might find this interesting reading for the summer. If you’d like to discuss it, I’d be happy to take you out for coffee…”
Just a suggestion. God bless you for your efforts. And don’t forget to keep her in your prayers – you never know if you are the planter, the caretaker, or the harvester for the seed of faith. God may send others into her life to carry on the work you may have started!