By James Knaggs, Commissioner
In our quest to win the world for Jesus, many of us with the strongest desire to help others learn and accept the beautiful love of Christ often struggle with the possibilities of family members not quite getting it. Are there any of us who don’t have some family members that are strangers to the Lord?
We hope for their salvation and right living by praying for them and sometimes even will say to them, “You know I’m praying for you,” trusting that they might be encouraged. My experience with that approach is that the intended affirming comment turns out to be a contest with the person’s own resolve to remain the way they are. Prayer will be effective. It’s in a condescending offer to pray that the relative is more estranged.
Confrontation about their lack of faith or failures in their lifestyle might make you feel better that you got it off your chest, but rarely serves the better purpose of leading them to the most enduring love in life.
So what do we do? Invite them to a Sunday meeting? Bible study? Men’s Fellowship? Home League? Or something specific to their interests? Well, that can be effective, but if they smell a faith come-on, they’re likely to miss the opportunity.
How about a long letter or a nice card? A good Christian book might do it, or a Christian movie. Perhaps a reminder of the tenets of their Christian heritage? It’s all lacking. I am convinced though, there is a way.
Often with family members, there’s a competitive edge to the relationship where they might be inferring: “The way I live my life proves the superiority of my choices without faith; I’ve learned to make my own way without all the trappings of a church.” I’ve learned that much of this type of response is really defensive, probably because down deep they know better.
The way forward, then, is to love them like Jesus. Make sure you connect with them where they are, without a judgmental attitude, comments or approach. Remember, Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but that through him they might be saved (John 3:17). This is love like 1 Corinthians 13 and this is love that is tailored for the relative. Consider spending more time with the loved one and being attentive to her or his issues in life. Keep the preaching down and don’t be quick to invite them to an environment that is designed to overstate the message. There is a natural walk in relating to people and leading them to the everlasting well of life. If you feel like you’re dragging the loved one to faith, don’t.
New friends are much less complicated to influence with God’s love. The relative sees it much like the community who rejects “a prophet without honor in his own country,” and may not want to hear it from you.
Don’t be discouraged. God is with you. He is the one who saves. Your message of the good news of the gospel is more compelling than any other philosophy, faith or human logic. Trust the Lord and be like Jesus. It’s all God really requires. He’s with you in your mission of love and he will bring it to pass. With God, family matters.