Eternally Significant Moments
We live in time but are destined for eternity. We interact with family over dinner tables, while watching television, at vacation spots, making ordinary plans, discussing calendars, swapping recipes, and getting immersed in a host of other mundane activities that seem disconnected from eternity. But, in fact, they “touch eternity.”
So let us remember that all our interactions with family occur at that crucial intersection between the temporal and the eternal. We strive to love our relatives right where they’re at for exactly who they are at this moment in time. We point them to eternity through the lens of the here and now. We enjoy life with them now and tell them of another life to come. We pray for them to come to faith sooner rather than later and ask God to grant us peace and joy regardless of his timetable.
Steps to Take
1. For which relatives have you been “waiting” the longest? Have you given up hope? Ask God to renew your heart. Have you grown weary? Ask God to remind you of his work in your life over the years. Have you grown impatient and said things you regret? Go ask for forgiveness. In other words, take stock of your long-term relationships and ask God to guide your next steps. There are times to just stay the course, and there are other times to make strategic turns. Ask God for guidance and guts.
2. Relationships with siblings pose a unique challenge. They may be the ones with whom we’ll have the longest relationships. The problem of assumed but unexpressed love may be most pervasive between siblings. If this is true in your situation, find ways to express the words that have gone unspoken for too long—perhaps with the next birthday card or Christmas present. Breaking the silence can open pathways for the deepest conversations you’ve ever had.
3. If you came to faith out of another major world religion (Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc.), you’ll need to do some research about the best methods of witnessing to that specific worldview. You may think that because you came out of that faith, you already know how to evangelize into it. But sometimes close proximity blurs our vision. It is wise to take advice from missionaries who interact with that world on a daily basis. For example, Jews for Jesus and Chosen People Ministries can give you great insight and provide proven resources for the task of reaching Jewish families. People who work with Muslims recommend Answering Islam at www.answering-islam.org. Similar resources exist for Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, a variety of cults, and other religions. It would be worth the investment of time to study carefully the wealth of materials others have developed. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
4. Certain cultures pose specific dynamic tensions that require particular attention as we take the long-term approach to witnessing. One helpful resource for Asian Christians is Following Jesus without Dishonoring Your Parents: Asian American Discipleship.1Wisdom from similar resources for other cultures are worth seeking out.
Let us remember that all our interactions with family occur at that crucial intersection between the temporal and the eternal.
5. Give thanks for exactly where your relatives are right now. Find common-ground issues to enjoy together at this point in time—travel, music, sports, movies, books, history, etc. In most cases, they’re going to be in your life for a long time. It would be nice for them to know you’re interested in something besides Jesus.
Perhaps God is at work in our relatives’ lives even when it appears that nothing is happening. This shouldn’t cause us to sit back and do nothing. But it can help us trust that more is going on than just what we see. In the meantime, we can devote ourselves to prayer, step on the clutch before shifting gears, and ask God to help us find the right blend of boldness, sensitivity, and grace.
1. Jeanette Yep, Peter Cha, Susan Cho Van Riesen, Greg Jao, and Paul Tokunaga, Following Jesus without Dishonoring Your Parents: Asian American Discipleship (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998).
This article is adapted from Bringing the Gospel Home:Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well by Randy Newman.
- What Did Jesus Teach about Family? (Andreas J. Köstenberger, David W. Jones)
- How to Pray for Unbelieving Family Members (William Philip)
- Hospitality Starts with Your Family (Pat Ennis, Lisa Tatlock)