Being Light to Your Family
by Carolyn Oakes, JH Bible Teacher
I remember the devastation and embarrassment as if it were yesterday. We had traveled back to the Chicago suburbs to visit family and friends and were attending an event at our old church. My husband and I had grown so much in our faith since our move to Des Moines. We were looking forward to sharing and being a light to loved ones in our old community. We looked fantastic! I had spent extra time that morning creating the image of perfection, matching dresses with big bows for our daughters, color-coordinated with our sons and their clothing. Not a hair was out of place, because of course, we have to be perfect, or at least appear to be perfect to be a light for Jesus - or so I thought. Our kids were sitting with old friends in the very front row as the event began. Part way through the first song there was a loud shriek, followed by screaming in the first row. Two unruly children jumped up, the younger with his chubby 3 year old hands firmly wrapped around his sister's long hair, pulling with all of his might, as she, with her face contorted, continued her howling. I quickly scanned the room to gauge the reaction of the shocked crowd, as I jumped up to collect my children, yes, my children. My not-so-perfect children. I escorted them out, diverting my eyes from the disapproving gaze of the crowd and firmly depositing the hooligans into our mini-van. As I commenced my verbal tirade, I was crushed and despondent. Our children had typical moments of misbehavior but had never done this before. Why here? Why now? I felt defeated as a parent and as a light for Jesus. How could I be a testimony to these dear ones in this community now? Our cover had been blown. We were not the perfect family. We could not be a light.
This was one of the barriers that I had to sharing my faith. I willingly believed the lie that I had to be perfect. What prevents you from shining the light of Jesus to your family and friends? There are various reasons and barriers that believers struggle with, but some seem to be extremely common.
Matthew 5:14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
As believers, we know that we are commanded to let our lights shine. We desire for our family members and friends to know the incredible love and security of our Savior, but let's face it - it can be a struggle. Let's look at some of the typical barriers that prevent us from sharing our faith and some Biblical strategies to overcoming them.
Pondering the "what ifs?"
Many of us are caught up in the "what if" mode of thinking. What if they reject me? What if it creates awkwardness between us? What if they think I'm prideful? What if they think I'm weird? What if they ask me a question that I cannot answer? What if they are smarter than I am? What it they don't want to change? This line of thinking is clearly a trap of the enemy. If Satan can get our focus off of the Lord Jesus and the good news of His love, grace and redemption, and onto ourselves, he has won a battle. We are told to "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith," (Hebrews 12:2
) and to "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5
When spiraling down in our thoughts, we should be compelled to ask the question, "how big is our God?" Friends, He is the creator of the Universe. He is the one who formed us. He is omniscient and omnipotent. He is the one who calms storms and stirs hearts. The great Rescuer! He can handle each one of our "what ifs?"
What if they reject us? The Bible tells us, "Though your mother and father reject you, I the Lord your God will never reject you." (Psalm 27:10
) We are not to seek after the approval of people anyway. (Galatians 1:10
) His approval is what truly matters.
What if it becomes awkward between us? If we truly just continue loving our family and friends, any potential awkwardness can melt away.
What if they are smarter than us? They might be and that is okay. What if I don't know what to say? The Lord will give us the words to speak through the power of His Holy Spirit. God assures us in Isaiah 55:10-11
that His Word will not return empty, without accomplishing what He desires.
Rebecca Manly Pippert, in her book, Out of the Saltshaker and into the World, addresses this fear:
"Our problem in evangelism is not that we don't have enough information-it is that we don't know how to be ourselves. We forget we are called to be witnesses to what we have seen and know, not to what we don't know. The key on our part is authenticity and obedience, not a doctorate in theology. We haven't grasped that it really is OK for us to be who we are when we are with seekers, even if we don't have all the answers to their questions or if our knowledge of Scripture is limited."
Recently, my husband and I had coffee with a sweet, young couple, who desperately want to be a light to their extended family. The young woman was sharing with us how she has 25 years of past mistakes preventing her from sharing truth with her family. Can you relate? I sure can. I thank the Lord that His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness! (Lamentations 3:22-23
) He reminds us in His Word that He has set us free from sin (Romans 6:18
) and that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1
How important it is to take a humble position and attitude in our discussions with our families. We want to remind them that although we want to be good examples, we make so many mistakes and fall short often. But we are coming before the Lord, asking for His wisdom.
We were recently encouraged by a story that author and speaker, Gary Rosberg told at a Christmas party. He and his lovely wife, Barb, had traveled to London to counsel a couple living there. They were unexpectedly detained by the London-Heathrow airport immigration officials and taken to a jail in the lower level of the airport. Their possessions, including their cell phones were taken from them, as they were interrogated individually. After being held for a several hours and still being denied answers to the charges holding them there, Gary reached out to the senior official. "I can see that we have offended you, " he said. "Would you please forgive me?" The woman was astounded. "What?" she asked, bewildered by his words. Gary repeated his statement. "I don't know what we have done wrong but I can see that we have offended you. Would you please forgive me?" Immediately, the woman rose from her seat in the cold, sparse room. "I'll be right back," she quipped. She returned shortly with official permission and documentation to release them without delay. The power of asking forgiveness! I was spurred on by his story to ask for the forgiveness of another. Is there someone who needs to hear these words from you, Friend? Don't delay. One never knows how the Lord will use this act of love to break down walls when we are obedient and humble before Him and others.
So we have overcome some of the obstacles in our way but how do we do it? How do we shine the light of Christ?
Jesus tells us to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength; and to love our neighbors as ourselves. He calls this the Greatest Commandment. (Matthew 22:37-39
; Mark 12:30-31
; Luke 10:27
) A person in love with Jesus is a winsome sight. Because we are so loved by Him, we can love others like he does, in His strength. We are set free from our human constraints and can truly love the unlovable. But you don't know my Uncle Ed, you may be thinking, or my mother-in-law. Yes, many of us have difficult to love people in our families, but immersing and wrapping ourselves in His love frees us to love anyone.
Recently, our staff had the privilege of sitting under the teaching of Bible teacher and scholar, Ray Vander Laan. One of the challenges that RVL, as he is affectionately called by his students, put before the staff was to be Besora 'la Basar
to others. This is a Hebrew expression referring to being the very presence of Jesus, His hands and feet to those around us. I often challenge my students in the application of God's Word with "What does this verse look like, lived out by you, a junior high student in Urbandale, Iowa?" Friends, this is the true key to being the light of Jesus to others. If Jesus were in our families, how would he respond? How would he love? How would he speak truth? How would he encourage? He was compassionate, yet firm; loving, yet truthful.
Some of our family members may be difficult to love. We can love them with the power of Jesus, living in us. Some may not accept our love. Perhaps they are aloof and unresponsive. Ask the Lord to show you how to love that person in a way that makes sense to him or her. And then do it. He is faithful.
Lon Allison, of the Evangelical Covenant Church of America, made a point at a conference years ago that still sticks in my mind. He was discussing the need to balance sharing the gospel with acts of love. He danced down the aisle, doing a ballroom dance. He replaced the beats to the song with the words care and share, using ten "cares" to every "share". His point, as he danced up and down the aisles was that we need our actions to enhance our words. It is a delicate dance and balance. Jesus' miracles were usually preceded with phrases like, "He had compassion on the crowds." Do our families know how much we care? I am often convicted in the busyness of everyday life that I need to reach out more with acts of compassion. A phone call to check in; a note in the mail; a text that you are praying for a loved one - these things do not take much time but can be very meaningful to others, showing that we do indeed care about them.
E.M. Bounds stated that "Talking to men for God is a great thing but talking to God for men is greater still." Our Father God delights in answering our prayers. He commands us and invites us to Ask, Seek, and Knock (Matthew 7:7
) and to come boldly before the throne of grace. (Hebrews 4:16
) "Prayer does not fit us for the greater work, Prayer is the greater work," contends Oswald Chambers. It is powerful!
Chris Walker of EvangelismCoach.org
shared some helpful prayer points in a blog post.
- Ask God to open their spiritual eyes (2 Cor. 4:4)
- Ask God to give them ears to hear (Matt. 13:15)
- Ask God to give them faith to believe (Acts 20:21)
- Ask God to give them the will to respond (Rom. 10:9)
- Ask God to send people into their lives to witness to them (Matt. 9:38)
- Ask God for ways to build caring relationships (I Cor. 9:22)
- Ask God for opportunities to witness (Col. 4:3)
- Ask God for boldness to witness (Acts 4:29)
- Ask God for an opportunity to invite them (Luke 14:23)
- Ask God to set them free from spiritual captivity (2 Tim. 2:25-26)
As we bring our loved ones before God's throne of grace, may He give us His love, confidence, perseverance, and Holy Spirit power, equipping us to be to be Besora 'la Basar
to our friends and family, shining the love of Jesus into even the darkest of places.