Faith and the Family at Christmas

By Lesley Mitchell

It is easy to love those who love us, who are our spiritual brothers and sisters, and who live godly lives. Sadly, we often find ourselves surrounded by family who claim to be Christians yet their lives show no evidence of the transformation that takes place when we belong to Christ. How then, to show them Christian (and familial) love but without giving the impression that you condone their actions? On the one hand, you need to disassociate yourself from immoral conduct, but on the other hand you don't want to drive them away by appearing judgmental. Here are some thoughts that might help you to strike a balance:
The key to harmony in families is not one we naturally want to apply. Ephesians 5:21 says to "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Submission is in direct opposition to our flesh's desire to rule and have its way. We defend our rights, champion our causes, defend our opinions, and assert our own agendas whenever possible. God's way is to crucify our flesh (Galatians 5:24; Romans 6:11) and submit to the needs and wishes of others whenever we can. Jesus is our model for that kind of submission to God's will. First Peter 2:23 says, "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly."

Most family problems could be lessened if we all followed the instructions found in Philippians 2:3-4: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." When we adopt the spirit of humility and treat others as Jesus would treat them, we can resolve many of our family and relationship problems.
Recall how Jesus dealt with the woman caught in adultery? Her captors wanted her dead; our Saviour showed compassion even though He was the One who would have to die for her (and our) sinful behaviour (John 8:11). Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), not to condemn them (John 3:17), and if Christ did not come to condemn sinners, neither should Christians.

As a Christian, you will be aware that we are to share the gospel, which Paul defined as the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). As it was said, "Preach the gospel always, using words if necessary," which means the validity of our witness is in how we live our lives. In the second half of Ephesians (chapters 4-6), Paul discusses Christian behaviour which can best be summed up in these few words: "Be imitators of God....and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us" (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Some thoughts from
[The essence of true Christian behaviour is to surrender] our hearts and yield our bodies to Christ so He might continue God's work through us. We are to be beacons of light in a dark world, using our spiritual gifts to advance His kingdom. It is living here on earth the way Jesus lived when He was here. It also means living to please one Person — God. We do this when we abide in His Word and then live it out as we are enabled by His Spirit, just as our Saviour did until He took His last breath. As He was dying on the cross, Christ looked out at His executioners and asked His Father to forgive them (Luke 23:34). Jesus was doing more than fulfilling prophecy and making "intercession for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12), He was practicing what He preached (Luke 6:27-28). Source

The only unpardonable sin today is that of continued unbelief. There is no pardon for a person who dies in unbelief. John 3:16 tells us, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." The only condition in which someone would have no forgiveness is if he/she is not among the "whoever" that believes in Him. Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Source

[When] we understand what the Bible teaches about election, we understand that God elects individuals to salvation and that only those that are elect will be saved (John 6:44-65). God elects individuals to salvation (Romans 9:6-18), and those that are elect believe and are saved (Acts 13:48). Salvation is entirely from God, from start to finish, and we should be confident in His power to save...

[Christians should] earnestly hope, pray, and work for the salvation of their families. And while there are times as foretold by Jesus in Matthew 10:34-36 that salvation will divide a family, there are also many times where the God of Abraham also becomes the God of Sarah, and then of Isaac and then of Jacob. As Charles Spurgeon said: "...though grace does not run in the blood, and regeneration is not of blood nor of birth, yet doth it very frequently — I was about to say almost always — happen that God, by means of one of a household, draws the rest to himself. He calls an individual, and then uses him to be a sort of spiritual decoy to bring the rest of the family into the gospel net." God has not only appointed or elected individuals to salvation. He has also ordained the means by which they will be saved, which is hearing and responding in faith to the Gospel message. As Spurgeon so eloquently communicates, this often involves a family member, as God saves one person and then uses him/her in such a way that others in the family hear the Word of God, believe, and are saved.
To sum up, if you appear to be surrounded by family who are not living in a Christ-like manner, but think they are Christians, you have a responsibility to show, by how you live your life, that there is something different about you. That means extending to them the same grace and forgiveness that Jesus extends to us. While standing up for Christian values and having nothing to do with sinful behaviour, the Christian should avoid adopting a "holier-than-thou" attitude. God condemned the hypocrisy of Israel who said, "Keep away; don't come near me, for I am too sacred for you!" God said "Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day" (Isaiah 65:5). It is possible to condemn what people do by completely disassociating yourself from their worldly life-style, yet resisting the temptation to judge them.

If we earnestly pray for God to draw them and bring them to saving faith, then we must also be willing to allow God to use us as the answer to that prayer. My sister prayed for me for 10 years while I wandered in a spiritual wilderness, and God used her to point me to Christ. She never condemned or criticised me, even though I lived a sinful life. Her patience and love shone through, like a beacon on a dark night. You too, can be a light in the darkness, and by your conduct, you may be instrumental in bringing some of your family to saving faith in Christ Jesus. Seek God's wisdom, strength and grace to help you be a living testimony to the power of God at work in your life.

Image Credit: Jamie Grant; "Christmas in the Green Isle"; Creative Commons

TagsCelebrating-Holidays  | Christian-Life  | Family-Life  | Personal-Relationships

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Published on 12-22-14