We just finished another round of what is known as “The Holidays.” The Holidays began at Thanksgiving and wound up with New Year’s Day. For many people The Holidays are The Hostile Days as you have been in the company of family that is anything but loving, warm, and friendly. For many people January 2 brings relief that it is all over. They spend the next 11 months licking their wounds from the family holiday gatherings.
The older I get the more I see that very few families function well at all. So many family gatherings have strained relationships, people that won’t talk to one another or even be in the same room together. Husband/wife arguments over things, grown children who are hateful and greedy. And then there is the alcohol… dump in a generous helping of hooch and the holidays can quickly become hostile.
I hope this doesn’t describe your family, but if it does perhaps today’s blog will help soothe your wounds. If you know someone who’s holidays are more hostile than jolly, I hope it will equip you in helping them.
Generally speaking there are just a couple of things that make the holidays hostile for most people. One of them is when your family is hostile toward the Gospel and your faith. We Christians want others to know the joy and peace we have found in our relationship with Christ, We also know that the holidays are some of the only times in the year we will see some of the people who badly need to hear the Gospel. Some Christians carefully prepare Christmas cards that contain the Gospel and create or purchase meaningful gifts that are intended to prick the heart of the recipient. The gift giver is broken-hearted when their card or gift is casually tossed aside. Others give “Christian” gifts such as books and games that are intended to point to the real reason for the season. These are not usually well-received. Christmas isn’t CHRISTmas for unbelievers- It’s X-mas at these gatherings because Christ is not invited nor welcomed.
On the extreme end, some of you are not even welcomed to the family Christmas because of your faith. You are tolerated at best, possibly belittled for your faith and warned not to spread “any of that Jesus stuff” while you are there. Perhaps you are too fearful to even try! Your family tells you your faith is foolishness and they even make fun of you for believing in God at all.
Deep down inside, everyone wants to be loved and accepted by their family no matter how difficult or obnoxious they may be. They are your blood – your connection and you want to be accepted by them. I suspect you do everything in your power to be kind and present Christ through your actions and attitudes. Yet each year you leave the gathering wounded and bleeding from disinterest and perhaps outright mockery and disdain you receive.
Family Feuds: Many of you with unsaved family members dread the holidays because it is sure to devolve into arguments and drama. Your family members don’t get along as a rule, and when alcohol (“the good times enhancer”) is added into the mix it becomes a messy brawl you hate to have to attend.
Each year you hope it will be different. You set ground rules ahead of time, make promises to yourself that you will leave if you see things headed in the wrong direction, but every year it’s the same old story. You wind up sitting in the midst of their drama asking yourself, “Why did I do this again?”
If you even remotely relate to these scenarios here is a bit of counsel for you to ease your pain and give you some perspective.
If your family rejects your faith-based gifts and cards realize you can’t expect your unsaved family to be interested in spiritual things. They do not have the mind of Christ, they are darkened in their understanding, and they follow the ways of the world because they are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1). To expect them to welcome your message of the Gospel is not reasonable. No one welcomes Christ apart from the drawing of the Holy Spirit on their heart (John 6:44). He is the One who awakens the spiritually dead, and He chooses those who will receive Him.
…[they are]thinking worthless thoughts. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart… Eph. 4:17,18
If your family is among the brawlers and drunkards realize your unregenerate loved ones are acting the way people act apart from Christ. They are living out their sinful nature and they are incapable of really being different. it is not wise on your part to expect them to “be better” next year.
…the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, Ephesians 4:22
Ephesians 4 and other places in the Bible teach us that the desire for sin doesn’t just go away, it has to willingly be put to death. Each person has to decide to kill off a sinful habit or way of life. Rarely does a person decide to stop sinning on their own and when they do it is more a matter of ceasing a behavior. Apart from Christ there is no internal or spiritual motivation to stop sinning. In fact, unregenerate people will grow more and more corrupt with the passage of time as they live apart from Christ’s transforming grace. This is the heart of the above verse, the unsaved will grow more sinful and depraved as they feed the lusts of their flesh.
You are only responsible to deliver the message, you are not responsible if they reject it. The heart is God’s domain.
“No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” (John 6:44). No sinner ever knocks (Matthew 7:7) at His door for mercy, by earnest and importunate prayer, until Christ has first knocked (Rev. 3:20) at his door by the operations of the Holy Spirit!” A.W Pink’s writings on The Holy Spirit
Going forward, orient your expectations to what is true and real. If your family contains unbelievers then understand they will act that way. Don’t be surprised if they are not interested in your faith or your church or your kids Awana awards, they have absolutely no clue what any of that is about.
Set limits in advance. Determine (based on years past) what is a good time to arrive so as to be present and a part of things yet have a planned exit strategy for when things typically begin to go off the rails.
While you are there, be kind, go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, be willing to be offended…are you getting it? Let them see Christ in you without your Christianized gifts and cards. Be a living, breathing representation of Christianity instead.