Refresh Your Relatives With Waters of Truth
“AS COLD water upon a tired soul, so is a good report from a distant land,” Solomon said. (Proverbs 25:25) What a stimulating experience for a tired soul to listen to your good report of everlasting life in the coming Paradise! In this way, your mouth becomes “a source of life.”—Proverbs 10:11; Isaiah 52:7.
Water saturates the soil and causes growth, whereas a flood may be disastrous. Also, water in the form of a chilled drink is refreshing, but who likes to be caught in a blizzard or a hailstorm? Since what bubbles out of our mouth has been compared to water, close attention to our teaching is necessary. (1 Timothy 4:16) We must be particularly conscious of the different effects of this “water” when we preach to relatives.
In ancient times, Rahab opened the way to survival for her family, and Cornelius gave a witness before his relatives. (Joshua 2:13; 6:23; Acts 10:24, 30-33) Peter’s brother Andrew helped him become a disciple of Jesus. (John 1:40-42) And today many of Jehovah’s Witnesses let Bible truth bubble forth to their relatives. Proverbs 11:25 promises: “The one freely watering others will himself also be freely watered.”
A woman in Europe desired to share her new faith with her parents, brothers, and sisters living in the Philippines. She reports: “I did so in every letter I wrote to them. Before my baptism, I also sent books to them and asked whether they wanted to be visited by Jehovah’s Witnesses.” To her great joy, they agreed to a visit, and now eight of them worship Jehovah. Some Witnesses have seen good results by sending gift subscriptions of The Watchtower and Awake! to their relatives.
But what if family members show no interest? Jesus faced this situation, for at one time “his brothers were, in fact, not exercising faith in him.” Later, however, “with one accord” they persisted in prayer, together with the apostles. (John 7:5; Acts 1:14) Why the change of heart? Jesus evidently gave his relatives assistance before he ascended to heaven. How so? He helped them to acquire faith by appearing to his half brother James. (1 Corinthians 15:7) Thus, do not quit trying to help your relatives. Many Witnesses have been able to converse with unbelieving relatives about Bible truth after having patiently waited for the right moment.
“Watering” relatives does not, however, mean drowning them with words. A Yugoslavian couple remark: “There is always the risk of preaching to them too much.” A traveling overseer observes: “The brothers often overdo it, displaying a misguided zeal.” Ludwig recalls the time when he began to study the Bible: “I then showered my mother for hours on end with explanations about almost everything I had learned from the Bible, and this often led to arguments, especially with my father.”
Be a “Well of Wisdom”
We read that “the tongue of wise ones does good with knowledge, but the mouth of the stupid ones bubbles forth with foolishness,” and “the heart of the righteous one meditates so as to answer.” (Proverbs 15:2, 28) Soundness of mind, wisdom, and discernment are thus required in order to give our words a refreshing and upbuilding flavor. When, what, and how much we speak are of significance.
On a hot day, for example, how refreshing a cup of cold water is for the thirsty one! (Matthew 10:42) But nobody would dream of pouring a bucketful of water over his head! The circuit overseer quoted above comments: “The best results are achieved by those who awaken curiosity in their relatives by witnessing in measured doses.” When an opposed relative becomes thirsty, so to speak, and starts to ask questions, fruitful Biblical discussions often follow.
Huriye, a Turkish Witness, achieved this at home by leaving Bible publications open to material that might interest her unbelieving husband. She read Bible stories to the children, and—if he was listening—gave explanations that were of benefit to him. Sometimes she simply asked: “I learned such and such in my study today. What do you think about it?” She also notes the rules of conduct she kept in mind: “Keep calm, and do not become provoked or take offense. Don’t be a know-it-all. Just be humble and stay in the back seat.” Her husband finally accepted Kingdom truth and now serves as a full-time minister.
Marijan helped several relatives to accept his faith. “Do not force things but wait for the right moment,” he advises. “We ought to respect it when they ask us not to speak with them about the truth. We must be patient and loving.” Particularly when relatives are opposed is Ecclesiastes 3:7 valid. It says that there is “a time to keep quiet and a time to speak.” That presupposes a willingness to listen patiently, not to interrupt, and to respect other opinions. “There is no sense in becoming heated up when conversing with relatives,” states Petar, who was once very opposed but changed his stance.
Let Good Conduct Preach
For years an unbelieving husband caused trouble for his Christian wife, at times locking her out of the house. He once got in such a rage that he tore up a book she had forgotten to put away. What changed his attitude? He explains: “I kept asking myself why my wife was so steadfast and kept relying on Jehovah. I could not find fault with her, since she kept house well, and she was a good wife and mother to our children.” One day the husband was looking for good material to present in a five-minute seminar, so his wife gave him two issues of Awake! He reluctantly glanced through them, and to his surprise he found a useful subject about the manufacture of pencils. In this way his interest in these magazines was aroused. Today, this family is united in Jehovah’s worship.
The apostle Peter’s counsel that a wife may win an unbelieving husband ‘without a word through chaste conduct together with deep respect’ applies to other family members too. (1 Peter 3:1, 2) When a married couple left the old unbiblical tradition and religion of their Romanian parents, their families became fierce opposers. The wife was even attacked by her mother-in-law, who tried to kill her. “We did not allow this to discourage or provoke us. We threw all our anxiety upon Jehovah,” reports Nikolic. Eleven years later his parents, both of his sisters, and his sisters’ husbands are baptized Witnesses. What broke the ice? “A fine example and Christian behavior. In other words, we did not spend much time talking with them about the truth. Rather, we tried to put it into practice.”
Do Not Abandon Hope!
While it causes great rejoicing to observe relatives starting to worship the true God, what if some continue to oppose? How should you react? Jesus foresaw that true worship would at times bring about drastic divisions among relatives. (Matthew 10:34-37) Marica was abandoned by all family members when she became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. While she did not compromise in her worship, still she recognized “that even relatives have a right to their own views and opinions.” Her attitude moved them to respect her as they had done before.
Ludwig realized that he was obliged to love his parents even though they might choose a different way of life. He repeatedly called to mind relevant Bible passages, such as: “Honor your father and your mother”; “let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt”; “[be] ready to make a defense . . . with a mild temper and deep respect”; and, “a slave of the Lord does not need to fight.” (Ephesians 6:2; Colossians 4:6; 1 Peter 3:15; 2 Timothy 2:24) “Whenever I phoned my parents or visited them, I prayed to Jehovah for wisdom, and gradually our relationship became more relaxed, more friendly,” he reports.
Do not give up hope that the seeds of truth will at last blossom in the hearts of your relatives. Baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses 31 years after his wife, a husband comments: “In retrospect, I must confess that my wife had a lot of patience with me. I was well aware that she often prayed to Jehovah in my behalf.”
May the words coming forth out of your mouth always be as quickening and thirst-quenching as fresh water! Yes, share “the glorious good news of the happy God” with all people, including your relatives. (1 Timothy 1:11; Revelation 22:17) Then Jesus’ words will apply: “He that puts faith in me, just as the Scripture has said, ‘Out from his inmost part streams of living water will flow.’”—John 7:38.