Being Christ to Unbelieving Family
By Jim Allen
Do you have an unbelieving family member? You are not alone. Many Christians have and are well acquainted with your anguish and struggle to reach them with the Gospel.
Like you, they have loved ones unwilling to listen or discuss the Gospel no matter what. Their arguments for remaining in unbelief are well scripted. They are skilled at countering your very best arguments. Standing resolute, they refuse your concern for their eternal wellbeing and walk away telling you to leave them alone.
But rest assured of this: Your prayer for their salvation is ever before the Lord. He is aware of your heartfelt pleas. He knows every word and thought of your many pleas set before Him (Psalm 139:1-4). You are facing what many believers grapple with on a daily basis: unanswered prayer. It is indeed a heavy load and one that many will carry for a lifetime.
Is unanswered prayer a test? God could be testing you. He will do things like that (Psalm 26:2; 139:23). How you deal with unanswered prayer is important. Our reaction to unanswered prayer tells God how we are doing in our faith walk. I sometimes think unanswered prayer is for our benefit because we learn to press close, trust more, and endure long.
But, how do we trust more? Maybe it means to let go and trust God. About trusting Mandy Hale said,
The more you go with the flow of life and surrender the outcome to God, and the less you seek constant clarity, the more you will find that fabulous things start to show up in your life. (Source)As a child I discovered God works in many ways. One man in particular lived a few houses away, and over time I got to know him. He was kind, generous, and overall a good man. He never once shared the Gospel with me but that didn't matter. I liked him anyway. He was good, kind, and a gentle soul.
One day I learned he was a Christian and then understood why he was exceptional among men. A few years later I became interested in Christianity partly because of his silent witness. While he never mentioned Jesus to me, he didn't have to. He lived the Gospel. He had a gentle and quiet spirit. He shared Jesus by allowing the Savior to live through him (2 Corinthians 3:1-3).
This man's witness was a fabulous thing. It was lasting. It was simply a beautiful experience. In time and because of his witness I was encouraged to search the Scriptures. Now years later, I reflect every so often on this good and gentle soul who went with the flow of life and surrender the outcome to God.
My point about the story is when our "verbal witness" falls on hard ground we might need to step back. But, in stepping back we discover another option, perhaps an even more powerful option. This does not mean we stop talking to our loved ones. It simply means we stop talking to them about the Gospel and allow the Gospel to be real in you and me.
When unbelievers look for proof that Jesus is real, they begin by examining the lives of those professing Christ. If they do not see the reality of Jesus abiding in you and me, then anything we say will leave them unpersuaded. They will reason, and rightly so, that if Jesus is not real in our lives than how could he ever be real in their lives.
I am not suggesting believers have a witness that is less than honorable, though some do. What I am suggesting is that every thought, word, and deed speaks volumes about who we are to them. In fact, when we mess up on occasion our witness is on trial. An unkind word or selfish act is akin to dropping fine china on the floor. It matters greatly because when one's witness shatters into a millions pieces, the loss and damage is apparent to all.
About this witness the apostle Paul said, "You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men. Written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" (2 Corinthians 3:2-4).
What can believers say to convince unbelievers that Jesus is real? To be honest, I cannot think of anything we can say to persuade our loved ones to reconsider their path. Everything that can be said about Jesus and his love for them has already been said in Scripture. There is nothing we can add to improve upon what the Bible has already said to be true. If they will not read the Bible and listen to your witness, then it's time to surrender the outcome to God.
Several years ago I heard an old folklore that says, A person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still. In other words, unbelievers need to confront the reality of Jesus on His terms in their time. The meeting of His heart with their heart is beyond our influence and best left in the hands of God. After all, it is God's work from beginning to end (Philippians 1:6). No one can raise themselves or another from spiritual death.
While praying for their salvation does not make the situation any less difficult, it does give hope. I have family members who were led to Christ but avoid talking about their faith, leading me to wonder if they are born again. I dare not judge. But I still have hope and look for the slightest sign Jesus is at work in their lives.
In closing, a family member refusing Jesus is an unimaginable heartache. It is a bitter cup to drink. God knows them. He knows you and your heartfelt pleas. But, He cannot and will not rule against their free will to choose (Mark 8:34). Salvation is the work of God (John 6:44, 14:6). Sometimes we just need to get out of the way and be what we are, a living witness trusting the Spirit to do a deep and quick work in their hearts (John 16:8).
The responsibility of living holy before the Lord and the world can never be overstated. More notably, you and I may be the only epistles they will ever read. And then when their hearts open to the Truth, you will know it and rejoice forevermore.
Image Credit: nikos; "walk away"; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Salvation | Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | Family-Life | Hardships | Witnessing-Evangelism
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