Drinking Deeply

Thursday, June 21, 2007 at 12:06 AM

A prophet has no honor in his hometown

This was probably as theological as I got in the last three weeks because of work. Someone emailed me wondering how I dealt with my own unbelieving family and I wrote back. Here's what I wrote, edited a little bit and maybe expanded a little.

One slight caveat. I offered this advice not really as a person who has a great relationship with his family. I get along with them and love them, but I'm not able to worship alongside them and it is evident we do not share the same goals in life. So I'm not a model citizen.

But, as it seems to be with many things, I often have the words but not the actions. I know what the right answers are, and it remains mostly to put it into practice. So I offered the advice as a means of rebuking myself as well. Let me know what you think, and if you have anything you can add from your own experience or knowledge of Scripture.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

With regards to my extended family, I guess I have it a little bit easier since they're all in Taiwan. The only time something came up was when my grandmother died and I was back in Taiwan. They wanted me to bai bai, honoring the dead through like a special prayer. I really couldn't do it, so they were a bit annoyed, thought I was disrespecting my grandmother. For me, as I was/am rather sure that she died an unbeliever, I was reminded of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, who begged that a messenger be sent so that his brothers would not suffer as he does. I can't see how affirming a false religion would honor her in any way.

With regards to what you're dealing with, it seems like you know the answer. Repent of your sins of doubt, anxiety, and unbelief, and trust in God, who loves you and sustains you. How can man (even your own family) even come close to harming you? Jesus said many a time that a prophet has no honor in his hometown, and while we're not prophets, many times the principle remains. I face my most difficult challenges from my family. Many times because I'm such a sinner and they know how much of a hypocrite I am. Have faith in a faithful God!

My advice (if I may be so bold to claim that term) is two-fold.

1) Figure out what you'd say to people who ask and simply say it. Don't be afraid of saying that you're a Christian, unless you really aren't one (because then you'd be bearing the name of the Lord in vain), but rather trust the Lord. You'll be challenged and persecuted, but there is nothing that quite matches with the glory of God that will be enough to stop you.

2) Serve your family. The way that my family has started turning around is that I've started actually taking an active role in being a member of the family (I'm still really messed up here, but it's a God driven change, however slowly). Small things like helping your parents clean up the house, setting up the table, washing the dishes, taking care of your sister, or whatever. When you're able to truly love your neighbors out of a genuine love for God, there's a great deal of credibility that comes alongside of it. Be a woman of godly character. Keep your promises, own up to your mistakes, don't lie, don't cheat, don't steal. If you're able to act in such a godly manner around your family as you have around people in RUF (and I know, that's incredibly hard! It's so easy to love those who already love you), then your parents would be honored to have you as a daughter and miss you when you leave. My mother confessed as I was leaving last summer that I would be greatly missed when I left, because I was the only one that helped her out. It's just too bad I didn't start doing that until last year, because I was such a sinner. But God is gracious none-the-less.

(this third point wasn't in the original email, but is added here as an afterthought)

3) Join your family for long periods of forced interaction if at all possible. Maybe a car ride somewhere, don't drive alone with an eye toward leaving early, don't ditch meals with your family for church. It is those times that you're forced together that the conversations start and the glory of God can shine brightest with Good News. Now, those are also the times when I was hurt the most, simply because the opportunity to be hurt was there. But I would say it was worth it to understand what my parents were going through.

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