Why is it so hard to talk with your unsaved family members about Jesus?
Yes, we all know the "prophet is not without honor except in his own country" passage, but does that excuse us?
Most of my extended family are not believers. I don't understand how this can be, but I also know that I've done next to nothing to share the Gospel with them, except incidentally. Does my lack of initiative translate into a predestined trip to hell for them?
No one wants to think that—but then no one wants that axe hanging over his or her head, real though it be. I think that millions of us are hoping the whole issue would just go away, or we try to convince ourselves it will resolve itself without any need for us. Because nothing sticks out like a bigger sore thumb than a recalcitrant family member who won't bow the knee, right?
I don't know that my father was saved, though I did try to get through to him. As a young man he studied for the ministry, but he ended so badly that I have no assurance he was. Other family will debate that. Virtually no one is "in" on my mom's side of the family, from what I can tell, save for my mom and her sister (and her sister's husband). None would be considered born again believers, though like most Americans, a light veneer of Christian moralism covers them. I could be wrong, but shouldn't all of us be more certain with our family members?
Other posts in this series:
11 thoughts on “Gut Check #5”
Of all the gut-checks so far – this one hit home the hardest.
I’ve always felt easy to be a christian/share the gospel with strangers rather than friends. The rejection doesn’t hurt as much.
Strangers are easy. I even find co-workers easy. Family IS monstrously difficult.
I know that in my own life, I have been a real jerk to family members sometimes… and even when I have not been a jerk, there have been times I did not give them what they wanted or expected from me… those deep seeds of resentment build up over the years – and then on that glorious day when you announce your alignment with Christ – all those stuffed feelings come to the surface… even if you apologize for them, you still face the possibility of slander and rejection – “If you were REALLY a Christian………..”
Some of that comes from stuff I have done and that I now have to live with. But some of that comes from our natural human bent towards selfishness… “If you were REALLY a Christian you would DO “X” for me…” I don’t actually agree that we need to jump at every whim just to prove we are a believer… we don’t need to condone every action or agree with every cause that our family members propose – just to prove we “love them” as Christ did. Sometimes we are being MOST like a Christian when we CHALLENGE the completely unbiblical way our family members are living – which doesn’t make Thanksgiving any better… lol! But, we must seek and live the truth as followers of Christ even at the risk of ruffling the feathers of family members. Jesus himself told us that there would come a time when brother would be against brother and child against parent (paraphrasing there…) so we should not be shocked that lines of division get drawn.
It’s tough for anyone to take you seriously when they used to change your diapers! Older family members will always have you at a disadvantage.
And now that I’m getting to an age where they can do that AGAIN, I’m totally sunk!
I can relate — this is a great struggle for me. I have shared with my family on numerous occasions, (to the point of being obnoxious, I fear), and they have even come and heard me preach.
Alas, I believe that the saying that was well-known even in Jesus’ day is true in some instances — “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and his own household.” It is hard for one who is so well-known within the family circle to break the stigma of being forever ‘little Jimmy’ or ‘little Sally’. (i.e. Isn’t little Jimmy cute, he has found God — etc.)
And, as dan mcgowan noted, we also have history with our families. They knew us ‘when’. So, I feel the pain and don’t have any real answers, other than we must live out our lives in front of our family being the lamp that illuminates through our actions and deeds.
Now, before I leave that hanging — I do not believe that good works and deeds need to be forced — I believe that when we have been reborn, our actions and deeds will show forth.
A portion of dealing with our nature is that we are often wrong. When an unsaved family member sees us screw up, then we deal with the inevitable comparisons, spoken or not. The hardest part then is admitting we were wrong.
With Jesus, He knew that no one could point to a particular action and cry “hyopocrite” and yet He was still without honor. Because they knew Him when He was a precocious child? Or simply because even those who did not know Him, compared Him with themselves, and drew the inevitable conclusion that if they were sinners (which the spirit of everyone knows is true) then Jesus was a sinner, too, and how did He get off condemning them?
But even when family sees a change, their first inclination is “Well, that’s just another one of those phases he’s going through.” Kind of like the way everyone feels about celebrities who claim to have been born again. (Bob Dylan, anyone?)
When the phase becomes something permanent, the lifelong experience of the family just allows for a longer time for someone to “outgrow” the experience. Sadly, as Christians get older, they often tend to mellow and that mellowness is regarded by family as a tempering that made the initial buzz just that–buzz.
Of course, rejection by outsiders is tough, but family rejection borders on something psychopathic, so you have issues there, too.
It seems that it is hardest to share my faith with the people who know me. I can walk up to a complete stranger and ask them what they think about God, and go on from there, but with an Aunt or In-law, it’s like the white space on an ancient map: Beyond here there be monsters.
Is a part of that the realization that there has to be follow-through?
My family is more or less amused by my sharing (on the few occasions when I’ve actually opened up my mouth) – my brother, who attended Bible College for a couple of years (but who is now living common-law with his son’s mother) considers himself to be the family authority; meanwhile, I am astonished at what he believes and wonder if he ever made it past Doctrine 101. My mother, for whom my brother is the center of the universe, agrees with him and laughs at my obtuse position. They all attend church, and my brother is on the worship team. Strange, I know. I don’t condemn them, though – I pray, try to love them as best I can (a difficult task) and trust God to move in their lives.
Excellent post. Perhaps this may have been what the disciples were referring to when the said, “We believe, help thou our unbelief”.