If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning,
it will be taken as a curse.
- Proverbs 27:14
Then the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet. He spoke to me and said: “Go, shut yourself inside your house. And you, son of man, they will tie with ropes; you will be bound so that you cannot go out among the people. I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be silent and unable to rebuke them, for they are a rebellious people. But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ Whoever will listen let them listen, and whoever will refuse let them refuse; for they are a rebellious people.
- Ezekiel 3:24-27
“There may be difficulty when you let the folk at home know about your relationship with Christ. Tensions may increase if you are loyal to your new Master. But be clear about one thing. Tensions may increase, but it must never be your aim to increase them. Anger may come, but you must never seek to stir it up. Making and breaking families is God’s business, not yours. And the breaking of a family is always a tragedy—even when God, in mercy, has to do it.
“In no place must you watch your attitude more carefully than in your own family. Christians tend to be a little self-righteous at home, new Christians especially so. Beware of “righteous indignation” about the sins of other family members. Show others the same mercy and patience that Christ showed you. Do you feel that your family has had all the mercy it deserves? Well, so had you, long before God got through to you.”
- John White, The Fight
As for the first Scripture, there was something going on at the church one morning, decades ago, and we were all there before the sun came up. The pastor greeted me first, and I was feeling extra especially exuberant. I greeted him back with gusto. He groaned and said, “Proverbs 27:14.” It took me a while before I had a moment to slip to the side and read the passage. I may have “cursed” him that morning, but he gave me a good laugh. I have learned, however, that those who are addicted to caffeine, in one form or another, are bears until they have enough in their system. So, do not poke the bear!
In the second Scripture, I am an introvert. It would be easy for me to be silent for a short while, but silent for years unless God had something for me to say? Ouch!! But at the same time, would that not resolve mountains of conflict?
But when John White wrote about families and new believers, I must wholeheartedly agree. I made a terrible mistake as a new believer within the first eight hours, and I slept for nearly all that time. I accepted Jesus while in bed, unable to sleep. I then slept soundly. Less than eight hours later, I was at the breakfast table, telling my mother what had happened to me. This woman, who practically lived at the church (fulltime employed, but at the church almost daily for one reason or another), flew into a rage, throwing the cooking tool (spatula probably, or a spoon) in my direction. She missed. She said, “I will beat this Jesus out of you.” She rarely touched me, but she got my brother, an ordained minister, to come home for his day off, living a couple hundred miles away, for the express purpose of beating Christianity out of me.
I have mentioned that before, and the reason for it was that the Jesus Movement was saving all these Hippies in California and the media portrayed Jesus Freaks as being people who did nothing all day except sniff flowers. She did not want me to be an unemployed bum.
But while she talked of beating Christianity out of me, I openly asked her if she had a Christian testimony. She did not. I asked her how she could justify violence upon me because of my expressed faith in Jesus while she expressed a belief in the same Savior. Of course, she disagreed with my Jesus because it was not her Jesus. Her answer was the typical answer, “I am your mother, and you will do as I say.”
My mother was a Presbyterian, one of the Frozen Chosen. Whether she was chosen is between her and God, but you could drop her in the furnace along with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and she would still have a layer of ice on her a few inches thick when she exited the furnace. She was impossible to thaw.
My Dad had been Baptist until he became a Presbyterian when he married my mother. That says volumes about who ran the household. He never argued with me about my faith, but he said that silence was golden, if for no other reason than peace. For the next four and a half years, until I had my college degree, I never opened that particular Pandora’s Box again, but my mother never forgave me for questioning her faith. And she never forgot either. The family functioned, but the family was broken.
I know a couple who have probably both passed away by now. The man met Jesus as a teen in Indonesia. He introduced his girlfriend, a devout Buddhist, to Jesus within days of becoming a Christian himself. She, in turn, led her entire family to Christianity. It is possible for families to always be on the same page. God can use new believers in doing so, but for the most part, John White is correct in treading lightly in the beginning.
I think the reason that I had such horrible failure in talking to my mother about the Lord was that she ruled with an iron fist, and the family, as a result, was highly religious, just not much underneath the outer crust.
I, in turn, screwed up royally in trying to teach my family members, my wife and sons, about Jesus. My wife eventually accepted Jesus after the boys left the nest, always sweet with a servant’s heart, just not dedicated to Jesus, and one of my sons accepted Jesus while away at college. Oh, to have had many of those conversations back – to only speak unless God had something for me to say.
Most people would think Ezekiel to be cursed. He might go for months without saying anything. Then he would speak the words God put in his mouth, usually words that the listeners did not wish to hear.
But Ezekiel did not get in trouble for being self-righteous in his speech or called a hypocrite for saying something that was simply, stupidly wrong. Those two extremes illustrate much of what I say when I put my foot in my mouth. What I write goes through a few inner filters, and I still cannot guarantee that I do not say something that is beyond stupid. I like what Beth Moore tweeted a few years ago. When someone argued with something that she had written a few years before, she replied that she didn’t agree with that woman all the time either – meaning that she had grown in faith in the meantime, but it defused the argument without agreeing or disagreeing with the irate reader who sent a mean tweet.
As my Dad said, silence is indeed golden, but Jesus talked of father against son or vice versa. It is not a guarantee, but before you charge ahead and plant the Gospel in their collective faces… Pump the brakes a bit. You may be talking to the person who changed your diapers at one time. They may know all the skeletons in your closet. It may take living the Christian life and have them ask, “What’s so much different about you lately?”
Ah, then it’s time to take the foot off the brakes.
And always remember. God saves. God convicts the other person of their sin. We cannot save at all, and God does the heavy lifting when we are involved. We especially cannot save someone who does not want to be saved, and definitely not by beating them over the head with the Bible.
The members of your family are people that you love. You have a vested interest in their salvation, but…
Pump the brakes, pray – pray a lot – and let God take over.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.