The Bible’s Viewpoint
When Loved Ones Do Not Share Your Faith
ACCORDING to one estimate, there are more than 10,000 religions and sects in the world. In one country about 16 percent of the adult population have at some point switched from one religion to another. It is no wonder, then, that there are disagreements about religious beliefs among relatives and friends. Sometimes this results in strained relationships. Thus the question, How should Christians treat loved ones who do not share their faith?
A Special Relationship
Consider, for instance, what the Bible says about the special relationship between parents and their children. No time limit is implied in the command at Exodus 20:12 to “honor your father and your mother.” In fact, in Jesus’ discussion of this command, recorded at Matthew 15:4-6, it is obvious that he was speaking of the honor that adult children would render to their parents.
The Bible book of Proverbs cautions against showing disrespect toward one’s parents. Proverbs 23:22 advises that you should “not despise your mother just because she has grown old.” Pointedly, Proverbs 19:26 warns that one who “is maltreating a father [and] that chases a mother away is a son acting shamefully and disgracefully.”
It is clear from the Scriptures that we should not neglect our parents. The fact that our parents do not accept our religion does not cancel our relationship with them. These Bible principles apply similarly to other blood relations and to one’s marriage mate. Clearly, Christians remain morally and Scripturally obligated to love their relatives.
Reasonableness Is Vital
Of course, the Bible warns against bad association, and this influence could come from one’s immediate relatives. (1 Corinthians 15:33) Many faithful servants of God in the past stood up for what is right even though their parents disagreed. This evidently was true of Korah’s sons. (Numbers 16:32, 33; 26:10, 11) True Christians should not compromise their faith to please others, not even their relatives.—Acts 5:29.
In some situations parents or other loved ones vehemently fight against the beliefs of a Christian. Some may even become enemies of true Christianity. In such cases Christians take reasonable steps to protect their spirituality. Jesus aptly said: “A man’s enemies will be persons of his own household. He that has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me; and he that has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me.”—Matthew 10:36, 37.
In most cases, however, Christians do not face severe opposition from their loved ones. Their relatives simply do not share the same understanding of Bible teachings. The Holy Scriptures encourage Christ’s followers to treat unbelievers “with mildness” and “deep respect.” (2 Timothy 2:25; 1 Peter 3:15) The Bible aptly counsels: “A slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle toward all.” (2 Timothy 2:24) The apostle Paul also counseled Christians “to speak injuriously of no one, not to be belligerent, to be reasonable, exhibiting all mildness toward all men.”—Titus 3:2.
Keep in Touch and Express Love
At 1 Peter 2:12, Christians are given this encouragement: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations [unbelievers] that . . . they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God.” Often, loved ones who do not share our beliefs see the changes that the Bible has made in our life. Remember that many who were indifferent or even opposed to Bible truth have changed their mind. It may have taken many years of closely observing the good conduct of a marriage mate or a child for some individuals to investigate the reason behind that conduct. When people do not accept Bible truths, let it not be because they were neglected by a Christian loved one.
Admittedly, circumstances vary, and some Christian Witnesses live far away from their parents. It may not be possible to visit as often as desired. But writing letters, calling on the telephone, or keeping in contact regularly in other ways will assure our loved ones of our affection. Many who are not true Christians love their parents and other relatives and communicate regularly with them regardless of their religious affiliation. Should Christian Witnesses do any less?
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Keeping in touch with your loved ones will assure them of your affection