Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How Can I Best Share My Faith With Family?

Christmas brings many together with family. What can we do to make our time together not only enjoyable but an opportunity to share our faith? How can we share our faith with friends? To be heard, you must have the respect of the listener. A good way to get going down that road is to treat your friends like family and treat your family like friends. When you love your friends like family and give your family the respect you afford your friends, you forge a path of love that touches lives.

Respect. Patience. Honesty. Using these three tools gives the power to be heard.

Respect your family. Whether you think a person worthy or not, show respect anyway. As a Christian, I can show respect by waiting for an opportunity to speak about my faith. For years I endeavored to start meaningful conversations. Then one day I realized -- the person with whom I spoke really didn't want to hear what I had to say. They were not going to magically fall into faith by my words. Now I talk less, pray more, and wait for questions. Not that the questions have to be direct, mind you; sometimes I give an answer to a question that takes a different turn than intended by the questioner. My audience then falls into an answer they aren't wanting to hear, but then it's their fault. They got themselves into this pickle by asking the question, and they know it. So they politely listen as I answer the question that now they wish they had NEVER asked. Of course, they are getting the answer maybe not just to the question they asked but to a question they SHOULD have asked. I respect my family enough to take every opportunity to speak truth to them in love, even if I have to go around a mountain or two to get there.

Those who are not Christians can show respect to their Christian family members by concealing their disregard of, or contempt for, the Christian faith. Your Christian family members want to win you to the faith because they have found such joy and fulfillment in knowing Jesus. They are guilty of wanting the same joy for you. When I see my own family struggling under the load of life, I want to give them the answers I have found. If my message isn't welcome, don't even give me a chance, because I love you and will take any opportunity available to share my hope. If you are interested, ask questions. If not, keep the contempt to yourself. No one wants an argument. A good debate is always welcome, but a debate is only a debate if both parties agree to the process. Anger is not part of debate. Passion is. Neither the Christian nor the agnostic, the atheist nor the follower of some other faith should be disrespected, but always expect the truth to be spoken in love.

Patience. Like love, it suffers long and is kind. (I Corinthians 13:4) During the holidays, most of us expect to enjoy the company of family but the flow of life doesn't always support those expectations. We get behind. We get tired. We get irritated. And we still have to go to the party. Not all arrive full of holiday cheer. Be observant and take every opportunity to help others. Make a special effort to help those who irritate you. A few years ago, little bracelets began appearing everywhere with the letters WWJD on them. That's a good question to ask ourselves everyday: "What Would Jesus Do?" I'll tell you a bit of it: He would suffer long and be kind. He would be patient with those who deserve it the least. I have missed many of those opportunities in my life. And I am sorry for it.

Being respectful and patient, however, does not mean being dishonest. Flattery and a false presentation of how you really feel is just a wrong as disrespect and impatience. How then do we strike the coveted goal of the middle ground? A good friend of mine once called it the "radical middle." I always liked that. I think Jesus gave us the answer in Ephesians 4:15 where we are told to speak the truth but to speak it in love. There is no shame in remaining true to God; in refusing ungodly behavior; leaving the room when things get too uncomfortable for a Christian to remain in attendance. There is nothing wrong with the Christian of the family letting everyone know in a kind way that he cannot remain while (whatever-that-thing-that-is-going-on-that-is-not-Godly-behavior) is going on. Naturally, the Christian may be accused of being holier-than-thou, but in a case like this, I think that is all right. If you don't drink, simply say, "No, thank you." If everyone is drunk and the party is turning wild, excuse yourself by speaking the truth in love. "I need to leave. I don't feel comfortable here anymore." If you are asked questions, answer truthfully with love. If you hear, "Do you think we are all just sinners, here?!", answer with, "Yes, we are all sinners by nature, but I don't want to sin anymore. Jesus has changed me." Then offer to drive them home.

Really great opportunities to share your faith do not arrive very often for me. So, I want to be ready when I get them. I want to be respectful, patient, and honest. Walking with Jesus, carrying His burden for your family and friends, and praying for them diligently goes farther than any fine presentation you might make. Be ready with your answers, though. There are still some who are searching for truth, and if you are surrendered to Jesus, you have it. Be bold; be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove. And may the Lord be with you.