Grace to you!
Have you dialogued with a fanatic? I mean those whose opinion about anything has become an ideological mold for perception of reality; those not ready to engage or listen to any alternative argument or perspective no matter how truthful and factual it may be? Engaging a fanatic in a discussion is difficult, if the person would even give you a chance.
Many fanatics are also activists and some become violent because the temptation to force others to belong to their camp is high.
Converting fanatics is a tough task. Nevertheless, if fanatics convert, they tend to be very convinced. It seems to be in their nature to be faithful to what they believe.
From the story of the conversion of St. Paul, I will suggest some keys to converting a fanatic. The story is recorded in Acts 9:1-22 and also retold by Paul himself in Acts of the Apostles 22:3-16.
St. Paul used to be called Saul before he was converted to Christianity. He was a Jew and a Pharisee. Pharisees are those members of Judaism who believe in the strict observance of the Law of Moses. Paul was also a Patriot, a zealous defender of the faith of the Jews and a renowned attorney, who studied under Gamaliel, known during his time as a renowned and respected Professor of Law. Paul was from a semi-wealthy family and grew up in a neighborhood that could be compared to living in the Silicon Valley of California or Manhattan of New York. However, he was a fanatic.
The result of Paul’s fanaticism led to violence, the first public violent persecution of Christians.
Engaging Paul in an argument was not an option for the believers. Nevertheless, the believers had a powerful tool to engage him—prayer. They prayed for his conversion.
Finally, on the way to Damascus, to carry out the persecution of Christians, God intervened and touched the heart of Paul, ultimately leading to his conversion. He, who used to persecute Christians, became a firm believer in Jesus as Lord. “Nothing is impossible for God” (Lk 1:37).
One of the keys to conversion is prayer. Conversion happens by the grace of God. Believers would be making a big mistake if they suppose conversion of people happens because of the sophisticated nature of their Christian arguments. These are good, don’t get me wrong, but actual change of heart is God’s grace acting in the soul.
There are many other keys that can lead to conversion, such as sharing God’s word with the heart of love, witness of life, etc., but accompanying the person through prayer, through spiritual support, avails much. So, as you bear witness to Christ through your words, life, acts of charity, etc., spend more time praying for the person(s) to whom you bear witness.
Do you know some people who are hard to convince about the way of the Lord, try praying for them; try loving them and try speaking words inspired by the love of God. God, the fountain of love, may stir their hearts and bring conversion.
May you receive the grace of evangelization. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul: Acts 22:3-16 or 9:1-22; Mk 16:15-18]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.