I remember getting the recommendation to read the book Letters from a Skeptic many years ago. It is the compilation of a correspondence between a son, a believer and theology professor, and his father, who was not. The father obviously had many questions, some easy and some not so, of his son, but in this case, the father was open to the discussion. The good news is the father eventually came to faith in Jesus Christ, though it took several years. This represents a success story in our minds as believers, because it means someone close to us will be with us in heaven rather than be condemned for their sins. However, not all such interactions are met with such success and often they aren’t as cordial.
Sharing the Gospel with the people we are closest to is hard. They know us. They know what we were like before coming to Jesus Christ. That can work for us or against us because either they will say, “You’re one to talk,” or “I’ve seen how you’ve changed for the better.” They may be more willing to express their distrust of religion, their opinion of religion’s abuses, and the crazy things they have seen and heard from churches they’ve been near. This makes sharing hard because we come face-to-face with the mistakes others (and we ourselves) have made in the name of faith. Also, because we are close to these folks, they won’t hold back their opinion like they might with someone who walks up to them and hands them a pamphlet. In those cases they’ll smile, nod their heads, and say, “Thank you,” in order to get the interaction over with. So sharing with those we are closest to can be a very difficult road, indeed.
And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel— not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you. But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.” Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears. And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.” – Ezekiel 3:4-11, ESV
Ezekiel, when he was called by God, was sent among the exiles in Babylon to share God’s message. Ezekiel would take what God had to say to his own people. It’s very interesting that God pointed out to Ezekiel that if he had taken the same message to a foreign people, like Jonah did, they would have responded. However, Ezekiel was to go to his own people and he was to expect resistance and failure. Not everyone would refuse to listen, as we see in verse 11, because God indicated that there were two possibilities: they would hear or they’d refuse to do so. However, as a whole, most would reject the message, for the house of Israel would respond with a “hard forehead and a stubborn heart.” This did not prevent God from sending Ezekiel nor did it absolve Ezekiel’s own responsibility to be obedient.
The same goes for us. Though sharing the Gospel with those closest to us may be hard and uncomfortable, we are still expected by God to do it. We should go in realizing that there will be a lot of failure. However, note on whom God places the action: the listener. The listener heard or didn’t. He expected Ezekiel to keep trying even though Ezekiel would have his words fall on ears closed to the message most of the time. The same will be true of us. Now there’s a difference between sharing the Gospel and beating one over the head with it. The message of the Gospel must be shared in love. It must be shared in gentleness. It must be shared not with a desire to “score one for God” but rather to help a loved one see the narrow path which leads to faith and salvation. But above all it must be shared.
Who among those closest to you have you not taken the time to share your faith with? Sharing your faith doesn’t have to be about opening up your Bible and busting their chops with verse after verse after verse. It often begins as a dialog about what you believe and how you came to your faith. In other words, it often begins with your own testimony. It could start with someone pointing out how you are different than you were before. Or it might be how a person notices how you respond coolly to a situation that would get them upset and reacting. Explaining that you are upset but that through Christ you’re able to keep yourself calm and respond appropriately often gets a person’s attention. It could come a number of ways. The key is to be observant of the opportunities and to pursue them with love. After all, if you saw a situation where your loved one was in physical danger and you could safely rescue him or her from it you’d act in a heartbeat. While the danger of not accepting Christ isn’t as physical and immediate (usually), it’s far greater, because it’s for eternity. Therefore, let us not hesitate to act. Let us not fail to introduce the ones we love to the One we love most of all, Christ Jesus.