“Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Persevere in these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”—1 TIM. 4:16.
SONG 67 “Preach the Word”
1. What do all of us desire for our relatives?
“FROM the moment I learned the truth, I’ve wanted everyone in my family to be with me in Paradise,” says a sister named Pauline.* “I especially wanted my husband, Wayne, and our young son to join me in serving Jehovah.” Do you have relatives who have not yet come to know and love Jehovah? You likely feel the same way about them as Pauline felt about her family.
2. What questions will we discuss in this article?
2 We cannot force our relatives to accept the good news, but we can encourage them to open their minds and hearts to the Bible’s message. (2 Tim. 3:14, 15) Why should we witness to our relatives? Why do we need to show empathy? What can we do to help our relatives to come to love Jehovah as we do? And how can all in our local congregation help us?
WHY WITNESS TO OUR RELATIVES?
3. According to 2 Peter 3:9, why should we witness to our relatives?
3 Soon, Jehovah will bring this system to an end. Only those who are “rightly disposed for everlasting life” will survive. (Acts 13:48) We spend much time and energy preaching to strangers in our community, so it is natural that we would also want our relatives to serve Jehovah with us. Our loving Father, Jehovah, “does not desire anyone to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.”—Read 2 Peter 3:9.
4. What mistake might we make when witnessing to our relatives?
4 We need to keep in mind that there is a right way and a wrong way to share the message of salvation. Although we may be tactful when witnessing to a stranger, we may be too blunt when talking with our relatives.
5. What should we keep in mind before trying to share the truth with our relatives?
5 Many of us may look back with regret on our initial attempt to witness to our relatives and wish we had dealt with them differently. The apostle Paul counseled Christians: “Let your words always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should answer each person.” (Col. 4:5, 6) It is good to remember this advice when we approach our relatives. Otherwise, we might end up alienating them rather than persuading them.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP OUR RELATIVES?
6-7. Give an example that illustrates the need to show empathy to an unbelieving mate.
6 Show empathy. Pauline, mentioned earlier, says: “At first, I wanted to talk to my husband only about spiritual things. We had no ‘normal’ conversation.” However, Pauline’s husband, Wayne, had little Bible knowledge and did not understand what Pauline was talking about. To him, it seemed that all she thought about was her religion. He worried that she was joining a dangerous sect and was being deceived.
7 Pauline admits that for a while she spent a great deal of time during her evenings and weekends with her spiritual brothers and sisters—at meetings, in preaching, and at social gatherings. “Wayne sometimes came home to an empty house and felt lonely,” says Pauline. Understandably, Wayne missed his wife and son. He did not know the people they were with, and it seemed that his wife’s new friends had become more important to Pauline than he was. Wayne reacted by threatening to divorce Pauline. Can you see ways in which Pauline could have been more empathetic?
8. According to 1 Peter 3:1, 2, what is likely to make the biggest impression on our relatives?
8 Let your conduct speak for you. Often, what we do makes a bigger impression on our relatives than what we say. (Read 1 Peter 3:1, 2.) Pauline eventually realized that fact. “I knew that Wayne loved us and didn’t really want a divorce,” she says. “But his threat made me realize that I had to start doing things Jehovah’s way. Instead of talking so much, I needed to set a good example through my conduct.” Pauline stopped pressuring Wayne to talk about the Bible, and she began conversing with him about everyday matters. Wayne saw her become more peaceable, and he saw their son become better behaved. (Prov. 31:18, 27, 28) When Wayne observed the good effect the Bible’s message was having on his family, he opened his mind and heart to the message from God’s Word.—1 Cor. 7:12-14, 16.
9. Why must we persevere?
9 Persevere in trying to help your relatives. Jehovah sets the example for us. “Again and again” he gives people the opportunity to respond to the good news and gain life. (Jer. 44:4) And the apostle Paul told Timothy to persevere in helping others. Why? Because by doing so, he would save himself and those who listened to him. (1 Tim. 4:16) We love our relatives, so we want them to know the truths found in God’s Word. Pauline’s words and actions eventually had a good influence on her family. She now has the joy of serving Jehovah along with her husband. Both of them are pioneers, and Wayne serves as an elder.
10. Why do we need to be patient?
10 Be patient. When we conform our life to God’s standards, our relatives may find it difficult to adjust to our new beliefs and lifestyle. Often, the first thing they notice is that we no longer join with them in celebrating religious festivals and no longer engage in political activities. Some relatives might initially be angry with us. (Matt. 10:35, 36) But we should not give up on them. If we stop trying to help them understand our beliefs, we have, in effect, judged them as being unworthy of gaining everlasting life. Jehovah has not given us the job of judging—he has assigned that task to Jesus. (John 5:22) If we are patient, our relatives may eventually be willing to listen to our message.—See the box “Use Our Website to Teach.”
11-13. What do you learn from the way Alice dealt with her parents?
11 Be firm but tactful. (Prov. 15:2) Consider the example of Alice. She learned about Jehovah when she was living far away from her parents, who were politically active atheists. She realized that as soon as possible, she needed to tell them about the good things she was learning. “If you wait until later to announce changes in your beliefs and practices,” says Alice, “the shock to your family will be greater.” She wrote letters to her parents, asking what they thought of the Bible’s teachings on topics she hoped would interest them, such as love. (1 Cor. 13:1-13) She thanked her parents for raising her and taking care of her, and she sent them gifts. During visits to her parents’ home, she went out of her way to help her mother around the house. At first, her parents did not respond favorably when Alice told them about her new beliefs.
12 When Alice was at home with her parents, she stuck to her schedule of Bible reading. “This helped my mother to understand how important the Bible was to me,” says Alice. Meanwhile, Alice’s father decided to learn something about the Bible in order to understand his daughter’s changed thinking, and he wanted to find fault with the Bible. “I gave him a Bible,” says Alice, “and I inscribed it with a personal note.” What was the result? Rather than finding fault, Alice’s father was deeply moved by what he read in God’s Word.
13 We need to be firm but tactful, even if we must endure trials. (1 Cor. 4:12b) Alice, for example, had to endure opposition from her mother. “When I got baptized, Mom called me a ‘bad daughter.’” How did Alice respond? “Rather than avoiding the issue, I respectfully explained that I had made up my mind to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and would stick to that decision. I tried to reassure my mother that I really loved her. We both cried, and I cooked her a nice meal. From then on, my mother began to acknowledge that the Bible was making me a better person.”
14. Why must we never give in to pressure to compromise?
14 It may take time before our relatives fully understand just how serious we are about serving Jehovah. For instance, when Alice decided to pioneer rather than to pursue the career her parents had chosen for her, her mother cried again. But Alice remained firm. “If you give in to pressure in one area,” says Alice, “your family will likely pressure you on other matters. But if you are kind yet firm with your family, some of them may listen to you.” That is what happened in Alice’s case. Both of her parents are now pioneers, and her father is an elder.
HOW CAN ALL IN THE CONGREGATION HELP?
15 Jehovah draws people to him by means of the “fine works” of the Christian congregation. (Read Matthew 5:14-16; 1 Peter 2:12.) If your mate is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, has he or she met members of your congregation? Pauline, mentioned earlier, invited brothers and sisters to her home so that her husband, Wayne, could get to know them. Wayne recalls how one brother helped to break down barriers of misunderstanding: “He took a day off from work just to watch a ball game with me. And I thought, ‘He’s normal!’”
16. Why should we invite our relatives to attend meetings?
16 One excellent way to help our relatives is to invite them to attend congregation meetings with us. (1 Cor. 14:24, 25) Wayne attended his first meeting—the Memorial—because it was after work and the program was relatively short. “I did not understand what the talk was all about,” he says, “but I remembered the people. They came up and welcomed me and shook my hand firmly. I could tell they were sincere.” One couple had already been especially kind to Pauline, helping her with her son at meetings and in the ministry. So when Wayne eventually decided that he needed to understand more about Pauline’s new beliefs, he asked the husband to study the Bible with him.
17. For what should we not blame ourselves, but why must we never give up on our relatives?
17 We hope that all our relatives will join us in serving Jehovah. However, despite all our efforts to help our relatives to become God’s servants, they may not come into the truth. If that is the case, we should not blame ourselves for their decision. After all, we cannot force anyone to accept our beliefs. Even so, do not underestimate the influence you can have on your relatives as they see how happy you are serving Jehovah. Pray for them. Tactfully speak to them. Do not hold back! (Acts 20:20) Be confident that Jehovah will bless your efforts. And if your relatives choose to listen to you, they will be saved!
SONG 57 Preaching to All Sorts of People
We would like our relatives to come to know Jehovah, but they must decide if they will serve him or not. This article will consider what we can do to make it easier for our relatives to listen to us.
Some names have been changed. In this article the term “relatives” is used to refer to family members who are not yet serving Jehovah.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A young brother is helping his unbelieving father work on his car. At an appropriate time, he shows him a video on jw.org®.
PICTURE DESCRIPTIONS: A sister listens attentively as her unbelieving husband talks about his busy day. Later, she enjoys recreation with her family.
PICTURE DESCRIPTIONS: The sister has invited members of her congregation to her home. They take a sincere interest in getting to know her husband. Later, the husband attends the Memorial with his wife.