The annual Spring Festival migration has begun in China, with the transport ministry predicting that nearly 3 billion trips will be taken during the 40-day holiday period. Some have called it the world’s largest human migration, as millions of people head home to spend Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) with their families.
While Chinese Christians are as excited as anyone else to spend the holiday with their families, there are anxieties and struggles in spending time with unbelieving family members and in being expected to take part in various holiday rituals that have their roots in Chinese folk religions. Many desperately want to share the gospel with their families, yet don’t want to disrupt the festive atmosphere that comes with family reunions.
A recent newsletter published by ZDL Books featured an article written by a Christian brother who shares his thoughts on how Christians can prepare for a holiday spent with unbelieving family members. The piece also highlights and recommends a book “Praying for Your Family” (《奉他的名为家庭祷告》), which is available on the ZDL Books Taobao Site. The piece is translated below.
It is a good reminder to pray for our Chinese brothers and sisters over Chinese New Year holiday, which begins this week, on February 19.
Going Home for Spring Festival: How to Share the Gospel with Unbelieving Family Members
The annual Spring Festival is upon us, when train stations are packed with people eagerly awaiting reunion with their families. After fighting your way through seas of people, being buffeted on all sides and escaping with your life barely intact, you desperately want to throw yourself into the embrace of your family and cry at the top of your lungs, "Praise God, Hallelujah! Jesus loves you!" Yet, confronted with a family still resisting belief in God, you can only offer some gentle expressions in hopes of persuading them. You carefully conceal your inner anxiety. For the time being, you need to continue to work hard, believing that in the end God will do his work and you will be a successful “undercover agent.”
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31) Sharing the gospel with your family is like a blocked mountain pass that cannot be avoided. Our commitment to our faith can sometimes become a burden on our loved ones because in actuality we lack the practice of self-sacrificial, tender love.
Arguments Begin with the Family Saying, "No."
“I'm not a Christian and I do not want to become a Christian. Don't talk to me again about this stuff." Hearing my mother speak such strong words terrified me. If you cannot talk about God with your mother, what do you do? I have no choice but to talk about my mother with God.
The above section is borrowed from the book, Praying for Your Family. This is the reaction you often encounter when you share your faith. What’s worse is that both sides (believers and non-believers) are frightened by these intense emotions. When love comes into contact with pressing demands, we see how “self-centered love” can lamentably become a battle. This is because of the closeness that loved ones experience. Both sides use their power to express their inner grievances and "correct ideas," the latter becoming increasingly impenetrable because they are based on one's supposedly clever mind and seemingly extraordinary reasoning. Even though the words are spoken “in love,” the split continues to grow. If God's hand does not do something, it could very well continue to bring harm to close relationships. Even more frightening is that, perhaps because of the barriers between each other in such relationships, you are not able to bring family members to repent in faith to God. You heatedly quarrel with each other and eventually it becomes something the family will forever regret!
Understand Your Misconceptions
The root cause of the dissatisfaction and conflicting views is a mistaken perception, which says, "Unless my family changes and becomes Christian I have no way to meet my needs and I can't get along with them normally." We should turn to God in faithful prayer for them. However, regardless of the outcome we should still be satisfied. This experience is being used to mold me to be like Christ, because it is Christ who lives in me. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, "And we all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." (Borrowed from Hope for the Heart by June Hunt)
When Christ died on the cross for us, he did not use his power to conquer this world. As it is stated in Scripture, "They will look on him whom they have pierced." Love requires sacrifice. The gift that God has prepared for your family and their salvation is your own love, a love that imitates Christ “as one who was pierced.” God wants to honor the tears you shed. Paul said, "I beseech you as a prisoner…this is your glory."
Examine Your Prescriptions
In Hope for the Heart, the author gives several good prescriptions:
- Respect the the other person and regard him as a unique creation of God (Genesis 1:27: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.");
- Love the other person unconditionally. (Ephesians 5:2: "And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.");
- Focus on changing yourself, not your family (Luke 6:41: "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?");
- Let the Lord fight for you. (Exodus 14:14: "The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.");
- Pray for the other person, never giving up hope.
Christians are often puffed up with spiritual pride, trying to play God. They are aloof and remote within the family, creating an uncomfortable religious atmosphere; sometimes they even try to lay a clever “spiritual ambush.” When they feel the pressure is too great, they will again compromise on the fundamental truths, and in the end it will lead to the double loss of family life and faith life.
Witness the Perfect Plan of the Most High
When we are truly humbled, when we let the hand of God lead us, we see our own foolishness and are compelled to testify of the wonderful works of God. Praise the Lord, for he is our true comfort. In Praying for Your Family, the author records a wonderful testimony:
I realized that before my grandmother died she did not see the success of her prayers for my father. However, 23 years after her death, God saved her grandson whom she had never met. Two years later, God has led her son to Jesus through her grandson's life. When I realized these things, I cried and shouted: "Oh, God! You are king. You answer our prayers in a way far beyond our imagination." Since then, all my family members have turned to Christ. I did not understand, but from beginning to end this is all thanks to the continuous prayers of my grandmother and the legacy of prayer she left us.
This Spring Festival, when everyone is toasting and celebrating, and every place is alive and bustling with activity, I hope you can be modest and gentle, and show your family love and patience that reveals Jesus. While remembering your family, you can take comfort and know that God's love has come to your family. In this way you will no longer miss out on the excitement of Spring Festival!
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