Family relationships can be challenging. This is particularly true in spiritual matters, particularly evangelism. For believers, one of the greatest burdens on earth is to realize that individuals who are a part of their family on earth may not become a part of their family in heaven.
My dad had a big impact on my life. When I think of men I think of my dad. He taught me hard work, integrity, and introduced me to my favorite sport of hunting. But since I couldn’t be certain of his relationship with the Lord, I woke up with nightmares he just died and went to hell. After 27 years of praying, he assured me that his trust was in Christ alone as his only way to heaven. I still wept when he died. But the tears were tears of relief, not remorse.
How do you go about speaking to relatives about spiritual things, specifically the gospel of Jesus Christ? Several things must be kept in mind:
1. Do not be intimidated by the past—No one knows you like your relatives. They have seen and know your past: your selfishness, fits of anger, unkind attitude, and a host of other sins. While it can be intimidating to witness to people who know us so well, view yourself as God views you—forgiven. If you have wronged your relative, be quick to confess and demonstrate how knowing God makes a difference in your life.
2. Do not take God’s responsibility on your shoulders—Christians often think they are responsible for the salvation of their relatives. This can lead to feelings of guilt and even bitterness or anger. We must recognize that unless the Spirit of God causes them to see their need, they will never come to Christ. It is our job to bring Christ to people. Only God can bring people to Christ.
3. Recognize that your actions reinforce your words—The witness of the lips accompanied by the witness of the life is powerful. A consistent, Christ-honoring lifestyle speaks volumes to family members.
4. Consider a letter—Unlike a conversation that can be quickly forgotten, a letter can be reread. Here are a few things to include:
- Confess anything you feel needs to be confessed.
- Compliment them for what they have meant to you.
- Express your concern for them.
- Talk about the gospel of Christ.
5. Ask God to send an additional witness—Sometimes those outside the family can be more effective in speaking to a non-Christian than those inside. Keep in mind, though, that this means someone in addition to you, not instead of you.
6. Remember, God can do anything—Many lack faith that God can bring their relatives to Christ. But, the God who brought you to Christ can save your most hardened relative! He has never met a person His heart did not love or His arm could not reach.