Have You Told Your Relatives?
“WE HAVE found the Messiah”! Imagine the joy of Andrew from the city of Bethsaida when he spoke those words to his own brother, Simon Peter. Andrew’s first thought was to share this wonderful news with his own brother. Because he did not hold back, Andrew experienced the joy of seeing his brother accept God’s truth—and even become an apostle of Jesus Christ.—John 1:41, 44.
Cornelius, a Gentile army officer who lived in Caesarea, was another who found great joy as a result of sharing God’s Word with his relatives. After Jehovah arranged for the apostle Peter to visit Cornelius to explain God’s way to him, the Bible says, Cornelius “called together his relatives and intimate friends.” When Peter expounded the way of the truth to him, these “relatives and intimate friends” were present. The result? They accepted the truth, and holy spirit “fell upon all those hearing the word.”—Acts 10:24, 44.
The course of action taken by both Andrew and Cornelius is a fine example for all Christians. From what you have learned from the Holy Bible, you know for a certainty that it is “the truth.” To share this truth with your close friends and relatives is a loving thing. Moreover, you may have an opening to witness to your relatives that others do not have. Do you take advantage of these opportunities?
AID THEM TO A FAVORABLE FRAME OF MIND
But how should one go about telling one’s relatives? It is usually wise not to try to tell them everything at once. A few main points, or just one, may be enough the first few times, just as in the door-to-door ministry, to whet their spiritual appetite. But if you begin by giving them what they feel is a big sermon, there may be adverse reaction. On the other hand, if you present only a few truths, you may aid them to manifest a favorable frame of mind, since spiritual babes “need milk, not solid food.” So gradually build up their spiritual appetite and understanding.—Heb. 5:12-14.
Further, it is best not to assume that they will instantly embrace the truths about God’s kingdom the first time you talk with them. Many persons have been misinformed about Jehovah’s people and have prejudices that need to be removed. So the thing to do is to ask Jehovah’s guidance in prayer and then to seek a favorable opportunity.
Tactfully present God’s truths, endeavoring not to antagonize them by bluntly telling them that their beliefs are wrong. This requires a loving attitude, not threatening, not being overbearing, but reasoning with them. Jehovah does not force people to accept his truth, so the apostle Paul’s words are most apt: “Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt.” “A slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle toward all, qualified to teach, keeping himself restrained under evil, instructing with mildness those not favorably disposed.”—Col. 4:6; 2 Tim. 2:24, 25.
If you tactfully tell your relatives, and they are not favorably disposed, then what? Keep yourself restrained. Even if rebuffed, endeavor to leave your relatives in the best frame of mind possible, because there will be other opportunities to talk to them. Further, while you are awaiting another opportunity, keep in mind that they may be called on by others of Jehovah’s witnesses in their door-to-door ministry. If you leave your relatives in a favorable frame of mind, they may respond to the message of truth. So, though they may not accept what you say from the Bible initially, do what you can to help them to become more receptive.
CONSIDER WHAT INTERESTS THEM
As you seek to share God’s truth with your relatives, be alert to what interests them. Are they concerned about world conditions? If so, this will enable you to tell them what you have learned about Bible prophecy and our day. Or they may ask questions, perhaps indirectly, that you can answer from the Bible. Then again, they may have had certain experiences that will open the way for a Bible discussion. By being discerning, you may recognize any special interests they have that will lay the groundwork for presenting the truth.
One of Jehovah’s witnesses in Pennsylvania had a relative who had delved deeply into ancient history and archaeology. This Witness had previously tried to interest his brother, with no success. But one day they were talking about ancient history and archaeology, and he realized that here was an ideal opportunity to tell him the truth. He brought out the book “Babylon the Great Has Fallen!” God’s Kingdom Rules! and used it to show how ancient history and archaeology harmonize with Bible prophecies. The book was accepted and also an invitation to come to the congregation book study. Afterward he said: “I was surprised that a Bible study class would go into the facts of history in such detail.” He began attending meetings and going in the field ministry. He read every current book of the Watch Tower Society and asked another Witness to have a study with him in the book “Your Will Be Done on Earth.” He dedicated his life to Jehovah, admitting, “I have been searching for something like this.”
The Watchtower and Awake! can also help you to use to good advantage any special interests that a relative has, because these magazines cover such a wide variety of subjects. So when articles in The Watchtower and Awake! discuss topics in which a certain relative is interested, be sure that he receives a copy.
CAN YOU OR SOMEONE ELSE START A STUDY WITH THEM?
If your relatives show interest and they live nearby, why not try to start a home Bible study? This is one of the most effective ways to help favorably disposed relatives. One of Jehovah’s witnesses in Michigan reports: “When I first learned the truth my chief desire was to interest my whole family. I started a Bible study with one of my sisters. Then I started another study with another sister, and she, in turn, told me that my niece, who lives next door to her, was occasionally taking The Watchtower and Awake! We went to see her and she showed some interest. Meanwhile, my oldest sister went to work for a person attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall. He stirred up her interest so much that, when she heard that we were all studying the Bible, she started coming down each week to sit in on our studies. I asked her if I could come and have a study with her. She agreed. My mother is now sitting in too. Also, my teen-age nephew asked for a personal study with him. Over the past six years the seeds were planted and watered from time to time, but just last year Jehovah has really started them growing. I have twelve nieces, nephews and sisters and my mother—adults and teen-agers—learning the truth.” Have you tried to start a study with your relatives?
If you are not making much progress in interesting your relatives, you may wish to elicit the help of other Witnesses. In Brazil one Witness had often told a relative about the truth, with no success. “I have my religion,” her brother said. One day when she visited her brother, she discovered that a family of Witnesses had moved into the neighborhood. She asked them to visit her brother now and then, being his neighbors. Some time later the Witness visited her fleshly brother again, and what a surprise! Her brother had become a preacher of Bible truth himself!
MAKING THE MOST OF VISITS
What if your relatives do not live nearby? Would it be possible to visit them? During the visit, an opportunity may arise for you to discuss Bible truths. Even if the trip is very brief, the seeds of truth may be sown. When a Witness in Texas made a visit to his relatives, he had only one day; so he arose early at his father’s place and, before leaving the breakfast table, talked to him about the Kingdom. “From there,” he reports, “I went to see an uncle and aunt. Several years ago this aunt had given me a Bible, which started my search for the truth. I told her, ‘Since you helped me one time by giving me a Bible, I want to help you now.’ After giving her a witness, to which she and her husband listened attentively, I went to a cousin and left Bible literature with him. From here I went to see another uncle and aunt. Then I went back to my Dad’s home and I had the opportunity to witness to two of my brothers who were visiting. From here I went to my sister’s home and she and her husband also showed interest. By making the most of the time, I was able to obtain thirteen new subscriptions for The Watchtower and Awake!, helping my relatives regularly to get the words of truth.”
Sometimes one’s relatives live in a foreign country. Perhaps a trip to their country will be possible. One Witness in the United States made a trip to visit her family in Rome, Italy. Upon arrival, she was greeted by twenty-two relatives and friends. What an opportunity to share the truth! Shortly, she was able to tell many of them about God’s kingdom; in fact, the first day her niece and brother accepted the truth. In less than a month’s time, her eighty-seven-year-old mother began to show interest. This Witness was able to help nine relatives to come to a knowledge of the truth or, at least, to begin studying.
WITNESSING BY MAIL
But what if your relatives live at a great distance and it does not appear possible to visit them? Then, have you tried witnessing by letter? Also, you could mail them publications that would be especially suitable for them. Special issues of The Watchtower and Awake! mailed to relatives may rouse their interest. Invite them to make comments on what you write or send them. A Witness in Mississippi reports:
“I sent the special issues of The Watchtower and Awake! to several relatives and received a reply from a cousin whom I hadn’t seen for about twenty years. She enjoyed the magazines so much that she cut out paragraphs, glued them to her letter and made comments along with questions. Now she gets the magazines by subscription, and she has asked questions on many articles. After reading a special issue, she said: ‘I am keeping this intact—it is terrific!’ She has made progress by mail.”
DO NOT GIVE UP
Just as with witnessing in person, so with witnessing by mail; it may take time. But do not give up. What if they do turn you down a number of times? People do this in the house-to-house ministry too, yet Jehovah’s witnesses do not give up but lovingly keep right on calling back every few months, to give them more opportunities. We should give our relatives the same loving consideration.
Moreover, time and change of circumstances may make relatives more favorably disposed; so do not give up. In Mississippi one Witness had a grandmother whom she felt would not listen to Kingdom truths; so for a time she said nothing. But she reports: “My mother gave my grandmother a Bible tract and in a letter to me my grandmother mentioned this. I wrote her an answer, giving the current sermon. Four months went by. I wrote again. Still no answer. Then, about one month later, we were surprised by my grandmother’s visiting us unexpectedly for three days. She came to the Kingdom Hall and requested a copy of the Babylon book. We have been corresponding regularly since then, and she subscribed for both magazines. In her last letter she said she finished the Babylon book and now wants to study it. She says her reading now is confined to the Bible and Bible literature.” Many have eventually responded to the truth because the Witnesses who were related to them did not give up.
So realize that, whether you witness by word of mouth or by letter to your relatives, it may take time. A Witness in New York state wrote to his family in Czechoslovakia for eight years. After seven years his mother began to grasp the truth and said in a letter that she would like to have someone help her in a study of the Bible. A local Witness started a Bible study and she progressed rapidly. In a recent letter she wrote: “Dear Son, With continuous thoughts of you and your family I am very happy to write you now that I am also your sister in the truth. Last Sunday I was baptized and now I am very happy that I can be also a servant of Jehovah God.” This, after eight years of witnessing by letter!
So tactfully and lovingly persevere in witnessing to your relatives. Help them in every way possible, not giving up. A Witness in California wrote that, when she and her husband learned the truth, they enthusiastically told her family. “We didn’t receive the reception we expected. But when I pioneered, they asked many questions. To handle them, I kept the book ‘Make Sure of All Things’ next to the telephone, and while talking, I thumbed through it, giving Scriptural answers to their questions. This kept up for some time, and they realized they were learning more on the telephone than in their own church; so they asked that I start studying with them. It was not long before my sister and her husband and children became interested and began going in the field ministry. My sister has been baptized.” This took nine years!
HELPING MARRIAGE MATES
Of all persons with whom a Christian wants to share Bible truths, high on the list is the Christian’s own marriage mate. To withhold such truth from this person would not be showing love. Yet sometimes wives hold back. Perhaps it is fear that the husband will oppose the Kingdom message. But sometimes this opposition is only in the mind of the wife. A woman in Sao Paulo, Brazil, showed interest in the Bible, and a Witness arranged to call back on her, but she warned: “Do not come when my husband is at home. He does not like me to talk about religion to anybody.” In the midst of the visit the husband suddenly appeared. Surprised, the Witness continued the Bible discussion, drawing the husband into the conversation. His interest aroused, he asked many questions. At last he said he had a religious book he did not understand. Asked to show the book, he brought out “Let God Be True.” The Witness showed him the value of the book and offered to help him understand it. He consented, and a Bible study was started with him and his wife. He has entirely changed his way of thinking about religion.
It has time and again been found that the ideal time to tell one’s husband is at the time a Bible study is started, so that the husband may join in the study. Both the Witness and the wife may tactfully encourage the husband to join the study. Even if the husband wishes only to listen, this will be most beneficial to arouse interest and stimulate questions.
If a wife finds that her husband does not listen or opposes when she tries to explain Bible truths, she may find it advisable to ask another Witness to help. In New Caledonia a Bible study was started with a Tahitian woman whose husband opposed the truth. Each time his wife told him about what she learned, he replied: “It is not you who should teach me something.” So the wife wisely asked one of the brothers to speak to her husband. He was surprised to receive Scriptural answers to all his questions. A Bible study was started and now he is a regular preacher of God’s truths.
But what if the husband opposes the Kingdom message and will not listen to anyone? The apostle Peter dealt with this problem when he wrote: “You wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect.” (1 Pet. 3:1, 2) Thus your fine conduct can bring about a change of mind in an unbeliever that, perhaps, no verbal witnessing may accomplish. How important is right conduct for all who want to help their relatives to become true Christians!
Sharing the truth with one’s relatives, as did Andrew and Cornelius, opens up the opportunity to unite one’s family in God’s truth. Above all, with God’s war of Armageddon facing this generation, their opportunity for life is at stake. If they are going to survive Armageddon into God’s paradise New Order under his kingdom, your help may be vital.
So diligently persevere in sharing the truth, doing so lovingly, tactfully, with gracious words. Do not give up, even if rebuffed repeatedly, just as you never give up with people in your territory. Even if they do not want to listen, you can witness by your Christian conduct. By such loving consideration shown over the years, you may share the happiness of aiding your own relatives to become your spiritual brothers and sisters. What a blessed joy! Have you opened the way for this joy by telling your relatives?