How to respond to my non Christian family?
How is a relatively new Christian to respond to his non Christian wife & children’s hostility to Christianity; that is not being able to express Christian viewpoints or any form of evangerlising? Thank you
I hope this e-mail finds you well and I hope things at home are improving.
What you are going through is difficult to bear because you obviously love your family. Jesus experienced the same problems. In Matthew 13:53-57 we see:
13:53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. 54 Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. 55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”
As you can see Jesus understands that telling people about him especially in our own household will be the most unwelcome thing if our household are not believers. I write this so that you know that Jesus understands your pain and that you can pray to him about your struggles at home.
There are a few things that I can say about approaching non-christian family members.
The most important thing to remember is that God is sovereign and he is the one who changes people’s hearts - so pray. This is always the best thing to do. It expresses your dependence upon God, it expresses your love for your family, it expresses your desire for them to be saved which is also God’s desire. God can do it and will do it if he wants.
However you must also be patient. As a sovereign God, he is the one who chooses if, how and when people come to him. While we may want our family to become christian tomorrow, God may decide that it is better that they become christian some years in the future. All we can do is wait and pray. This is what it means to have faith in God and to trust him. You trust that God loves your family just as much (if not more so) than you do and that he is acting in their circumstances for their good as well as yours.
After prayer, I think the most effective way you can respond to non-christian family is the way you live. As christians we are being changed to become more and more like Jesus every day. This is a change that we are called to take an active part in. In Col 3 Paul talks about taking off the old sinful self and putting on the new godly self. This new godly self is characterised by patience, love, kindness and so on. Such changes in your life will become evident to your friends and family and will show them how good Christianity is.
Godly living can maifest itself in many ways - the way you serve your family, the way you treat others, your attitude to work and recreation and so on. But I suggest that it will be most obvious in the way you handle conflict within your family. As a christian we believe in a God of justice and truth, as well as mercy and compassion. Therefore when we deal with conflict, we need to make sure we are just and merciful as well. This will mean listening to each other, discussing things reasonably together and coming to consensus. It will mean showing compassion, mercy and love when you are wronged and seeking forgiveness when you know you have wronged others.
When you do have an opportunity to speak about Christianity to them then be gentle and gracious rather than confrontational. Ask God to give you the right words. It is often far easier and less threatening to them for you to talk about your own experiences and understanding of christiaity rather than challenge them directly about their undestanding of christianity. Remember that you are not the one whose responsibility it is to convince them of the gospel - that’s God’s. Your responsibility is to present Christianity in the most compelling way you can (without distorting it of course ;-)).
If you feel it is appropriate to confront them then choose your arguments carefully. My parents and siblings are hostile non-Christians too and at family gatherings my siblings especially will like to see if they can make me angry by saying something they know I disagree with. I have learnt that if they are being confrontational on purpose you will never have a honest conversation with them but when they are speaking to you normally that is when they might be more open to the gospel. Choosing these moments and not reacting in the confrontational ones can make a huge difference in how your family will respond to the gospel.
Finally, remember that you are an imperfect christian and while you may fail in your love and commitment to your family, God will not. It means no matter how badly you may evangelise your family, God is big enough and powerfulenough to use your efforts to chage their hearts. So don’t give up!
Answers are kindly provided by our friends at Christianity.net.au
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