The holidays are upon us again. Turkeys are thawing. Belts will be loosening. Stores will be opening. Credit cards sliding and personal debt rising.
I love the holidays and wish they were only about gratitude (Thanksgiving), preparation (Advent) and loving celebration (Christmas), but the reality is that if you live out your faith there will probably be some conflict and moments of very awkward silence.
Like that moment when your aunt tells you all the things 'wrong' with your Church . . . or your condescending cousin drills you on Catholic Church teaching and asks why you so 'mindlessly' follow it? Or when your Mom pulls you aside in the kitchen before family dinner and encourages you to avoid talking about certain topics like abortion or politics?
Honoring Your Parents
It's tough to follow the Commandment to 'honor your father and mother' (Exodus 20:12) when they're asking you to keep quiet about your love for your Heavenly Father. It's equally challenging to honor the Commandment 'thou shalt not kill' (Exodus 20:13) when your brother or sister mocks you for your faith.
We must remember that 'honoring' doesn’t mean you can't disagree. Honor speaks to obedience, yes, and respect, to be sure. Honoring parents, however, does not mean that you cannot have your own opinion. Honoring parents means you don't 'react' negatively. It means you listen attentively, share lovingly, and choose silence when necessary. Ask for the opportunity to share your thoughts and feelings and communicate calmly when you do.
If you're told to be quiet, be quiet and pray for them. A time will come when you can share more about what you believe or how an exchange may have hurt you.
Often times the souls who are most challenging to evangelize live under your same roof. It's usually helpful to remember that your family is not 'weird' in this way. It's always tricky to share Christ's truth within families. Jesus even told us it would be hard.
Consider this passage from the gospel:
'Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me.' … Matthew 10:34-40
By the sounds of it, Jesus is telling us to create more conflict, not 'less.' So how do we 'keep the peace' while still loving the Lord during these awkward holiday moments?
The answer is love.
Now, to 'love' doesn't mean you don't share truth. On the contrary, love necessitates that you share truth even more (1 Corinthians 13:1-13). To love doesn't mean you turn your eyes away from other people's sins … it means you call them out of sin (Luke 17:3).
The difference that love makes is the manner and the moments in which we choose to share truth with our families.
Advice for Sharing Your Faith
Here are a few things that I've learned about sharing truth with family members:
- Pray more before you see them. Pray that the Lord would open their ears and hearts. Pray that the Holy Spirit would give you the words when the time comes (Luke 12:12) and ask God to make it clear when the time is right.
- One on one conversations are always more effective than 'taking on' a group.
- Allow the other person to share their views. Respectfully acknowledge their opinion but remember that opinion does not equal truth. When you share your views ask for the same respectful listening and point your views back to the teachings of Christ and His Church. You are sharing more than opinion’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ_and, remember, you cannot control how they take it or if they listen.
- Do not allow their emotion or attitude to steal your joy or make you angry. Be proactive, not reactive.
- Do your homework. Learn not only what the Church teaches but how to explain and articulate it. Have books you can check and solid websites you can refer to or refer others toward.
- Stand firm. If a conversation gets really tense, invite others to pray with you. If they decline, excuse yourself and go spend a few minutes in prayer.
- Do not be personally hurt if someone … even a close family member … rejects you. You are blessed if you are rejected because of Christ (Matthew 5:10-11). They might need more time before they are open. God is in control.
Beyond all of these ideas, however, remember this most important thing: if the person you are speaking to does not believe that you genuinely love them and care about their soul, it doesn't matter what words you use. That's what St. Paul was talking about in his epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:1-2).
Remind your family member that you are sharing truth because you love them and allow your humility and your unshakeable joy to prove your point.
Know, too, that not only am I proud of you … but Christ is proud of you. He never said it would be easy, in fact He said it wouldn't be (John 16:33) . . . but it is worth it. He is worth it.