2 Ways to Make the Most of Your Time with Your Non-Christian Family Members and Friends
By Grace McCready
According to the Pew Research Center, almost 90% of Americans spend Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with their extended family members or their friends. When I was growing up, I spent almost every Christmas Eve with my extended family. Our Christmas Eve gatherings were special.
But I realize that Christmas gatherings with family and friends aren’t always easy. For many Christians, these gatherings can be awkward—and even tense—because not everyone at these gatherings holds the same views and values. I completely understand that dilemma, and I genuinely empathize.
If you’re planning to host or attend a Christmas gathering with your non-Christian family members or friends this year, here are two practical ways to make the most of it:
Demonstrate the character of Christ.
Before I joined the Christian ministry where I currently work, I worked for a secular company that offered IT consulting services. I often felt lonely—like I was the only Christian in the entire organization and that I couldn’t really be myself with my coworkers. It wasn’t easy to be in a secular environment, but I’m still thankful for that opportunity. Through that job, God taught me how vital it is to represent Him well when I interact with non-Christians.
Your family members and friends—including the ones whom you’re planning to celebrate Christmas with—are listening to what you say and watching how you act. When you interact with them (and when you interact with others), make sure your words and actions align with Scripture. Ask God to give you strength to show His love to the people whom you’re surrounded by this Christmas.
Though it’s often treated like a cheesy cliché, the phrase “What would Jesus do?” is important to keep in mind as you gather with family members and friends. Ask yourself:
- “What would Jesus say if He was in this conversation?”
- “How would Jesus answer if someone asked Him this question?”
- “What would Jesus do if He was in this situation?”
- “How would Jesus react if someone acted this way toward Him?”
So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:17-24 NASB1995)
Be humble when you fail to demonstrate the character of Christ.
A common reason that non-Christians give for why they don’t follow Jesus is that Christians are hypocrites. “Christians say one thing but do the complete opposite,” many complain. “They act like they’re better than I am, but they do the same things that I do.”
It’s so hard to fight against hypocrisy. (I certainly find it challenging to be transparent with others, especially regarding my sins and struggles!) But the truth is when you fail to demonstrate the character of Christ, the best way to proceed is with humility. And if you choose to proceed that way, your non-Christian family members and friends will see that you’re not a hypocrite; you’re human (just like they are) and need God’s grace (just like they do).
No matter how wonderful your intentions are, it’s simply impossible for you to say and do everything perfectly in the midst of your non-Christian family members and friends. That’s why it’s so important to humbly admit your sins and seek forgiveness from the people whom you wrong. So if you lose your temper with your child or if you say something unkind to your parent or if you ignore your sibling’s request for help, ask him or her for forgiveness. Allow God to use your failings to point your non-Christian family members and friends to His grace.
…clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble [Proverbs 3:34]. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:5-7 NASB1995)
To be honest, this is an area of my Christian faith where I often fall short. I’m not the best example of being a light to my family members and friends who don’t have relationships with Jesus. I’m learning how much I need the Holy Spirit’s help in this area. But I’m also learning that no one’s salvation—not even the salvation of my close family members or friends—is dependent on me.
Wholehearted friends, you do have an important part to play in telling others the good news and being a godly example to them. But you aren’t the one who causes (or doesn’t cause) someone to decide to follow Christ. My hope is that you find comfort and peace in that truth this Christmas.
What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:5-7 NASB1995)