Many of us will be gathering with family during the next few weeks and some of us feel pressure to “make the most” of these times. Specifically, some feel the need to “make sure to get the gospel in” to our conversations. It’s worth pausing and thinking through some possible strategies for these crucial reunions.
Strategy #1: Convey love as well as truth
In talking to many people about the complex issue of family, I’ve found that, when it comes to our relatives, love is often assumed but seldom expressed. At least, it’s not expressed in ways that people actually feel loved. “I love you” may be tacked on to the end of a phone call. Or an obligatory “love” might be placed before our name at the bottom of an email. But do our relatives actually sense that we truly care about them?
We may be tempted to say, “Of course he knows I love him. He’s my brother.” But over time, we may need to adapt our expressions to fit new stages of life. When we’re together this year, we may need to break old habits of just saying the same old cliches we’ve said many times in previous years. Listening, asking questions, expressing empathy, and finding common ground may be more important (and more difficult) than quoting a Bible verse or handing them a tract.
Strategy #2: Consider proclaiming some of the truth before delivering the whole truth
I know this sounds counterintuitive. In fact, to some, this may sound like downright heresy! Some of us have been trained to “make sure to state the whole gospel” or “their blood will be on our hands.” To me, that sounds a bit like a lack of trust in the sovereignty of God.
In our day of constant contact (through email, texts, tweets, etc.) we can trust God to string together a partial conversation at Christmas dinner to a follow up discussion the next day, to a phone conversation, to numerous emails, etc. Some of our unsaved family members and friends need to digest parts of the gospel (“How can God be both loving and holy?”) before they can take the next bite (“Jesus’ death resolves the tension of God’s love and his holiness.”)
Some of our unsaved family members and friends need to digest parts of the gospel before they can take the next bite.
Strategy #3: Don’t be a grinch
The temptations to whine about the commercialization of Christmas, to complain that our world has forgotten that “Jesus is the reason for the season,” or to campaign for more Christ-centered Christmas music on the radio may turn out to be just as annoying as one more chorus of “Jingle Bell Rock.”
Besides, for people who don’t know Jesus, he’s not the reason for their season and yet some of them still like this time of year. Perhaps a more positive attitude and strategy may make greater headway. Join them in their enjoyment of the tree, the lights, the food, and talk about the wonder that God sent his Son as all parts of a glorious time of year. Find ways to insert snippets (not entire sermons) about forgiveness, grace, eternity, or hope in between praising Aunt Sue for the delicious cookies and thanking Grandpa for not bringing another fruitcake.
This is a wonder-full season. Let’s do all that we can to make it attractive to those we love, pray for, and see only a few times a year.
This blog originally appeared on www.connectionpoints.us, where Randy blogs regularly. Randy is author of several books including Questioning Evangelism and the forthcoming Engaging with Jewish People, scheduled for publication with The Good Book Company in 2016.