Why You Shouldn’t Talk About Jesus This Holiday Season

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Years ago I was serving in a church in Tennessee where a male leader in the church wanted to meet with me. 

It was the Monday after Thanksgiving. 

He had told me that he and his wife just had the worst Thanksgiving of their lives and it was all of their adult daughter’s fault. 

At Thanksgiving dinner, their daughter informed her parents that she was a lesbian and had been for quite some time and was seriously dating a female significant other. 

And both mom and dad lost their minds in anger/fear/judgment. 

There was shouting. There were derogatory remarks. And their daughter ended up leaving the Thanksgiving holiday, mid-meal. 

As she grabbed her coat and purse, her dad yelled out, You’re going to go to hell, you know that!?!

The father telling me what took place was being this brutally honest with me, and not because he felt shame for how he reacted to his daughter’s news of being gay, but because he thought he was preaching to the choir. He thought I was with him in the way he reacted. 

I was only with him in two ways: One, I loved him because God loves him. Two, I also have had moments where surprising news came to me from family and I did not react well either. 

May Christians have the continual prayer that while we can’t control the comments of those around us, we can still choose to respond to their news in a God-honoring way. Self-control, kindness and gentleness are fruit of the Spirit that never go bad. They are always ripe. 

But I was not with him on how he thought Christians should treat those in the homosexual community. To him, his daughter became an enemy. In an instance what was going to be a great family memory turned into an us-verses-them relationship. 

Fast forward a year later, a couple weeks before Christmas. This same dad comes into my office still stressed and still angry. 

At this point I hadn’t seen him in a year – at all. After our meeting the year before, I asked him to step down from church leadership unless he was going to apologize to his daughter. He refused to apologize and left the church abruptly, blasting me on social media. 

But he reached out to me again 13 months later, and since I wasn’t a legalist like him, since I believe in the action of grace, I was willing to meet. 

He told me that on Christmas Eve his daughter was going to marry the woman she had been dating for over a year. He and his wife had been invited to the wedding (which was in a state that permitted same-sex marriage at the time). 

The wedding was two weeks away and he and his wife had not made travel plans. Not only had he not talked to me in over a year, he hadn’t talked to his daughter in over a year (his wife had a few times).

They weren’t going the wedding of their child. 

His reasoning was this: If he and his wife attend the wedding of his daughter to another woman, then he would be sanctioning what he considered their lifestyle of sin. 

I asked him if he had ever been to a wedding before. Obviously he had. 

I asked him if each wedding he attended, if he knew all of the shortcomings and sin of both the bride and groom-to-be. He obviously hadn’t. 

But he attended each wedding. He dressed up, bought gifts, supported the couple, had a good time. 

I told him that not attending the wedding of his daughter would be something he would regret for the rest of his life and that it would sever their relationship.

I encouraged this father to view his daughter through the lens of God the Father. I wanted him to see how God still pursues people even when they run from him. And I reminded him that his judgmental sin put him on the same level as any sexual sin he assumed his daughter was doing. 

Two weeks later, he didn’t attend the wedding. 

I don’t know if this father and his daughter have reconciled to this day, but think about how the holiday season feels each year for this family. When Thanksgiving comes, the memory of a daughter crying on her way out of the home as her dad yells she’s going to hell will be felt every year. 

On Christmas Eve, the memory of her parents not willing to attend her wedding will be felt every year. 

This is why I do not talk about Jesus around the holiday season. 

It’s not just Jesus I don’t talk about around the holiday season. It’s anything political. It’s anything racial. It’s anything personal that is a historical bad memory in the family. I prayerfully vie to be all smiles and support and acts of service no matter what this time of year. 

The holidays are a very sensitive time that any topic that polarizes (which the topic of Jesus does), is going to be a lose-lose situation. 

Civil rights activist and poet Maya Angelou said this: People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel

What is more important than talking about Jesus around the holiday season is being Jesus during the holiday season. 

If your loved ones feel rejected and depressed, give them a listening ear taking some serious one-on-one time for them to make sure they definitively know how loved they are. 

If your loved ones have hurt you in the past, let them know you forgive them and that you’re always with them. 

If your loved ones have news that surprises you or opinions that you adamantly disagree with, there is a time and a place to state your case and the holidays are not the time to do it. Usually our first emotional response in conversations of disagreement are not the most God-honoring responses that we have. 

They will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. They will never forget how you made them feel.

Choose acts of humility and service over acts of having to be right this holiday season.

There will be more than enough of opportunities to talk about Jesus, share the Gospel, pray with someone, share a Bible verse, speak truth, invite a loved one to worship throughout the year (and if a loved one is asking about Jesus willingly, yes, please shout the Good News from the mountain tops), but when someone isn’t in the humble spirit to hear about Jesus, the holidays are definitely not the time to bring Him up. 

But the holidays are definitely the time for Him to show up through you.

Jesus says that your love for one another will prove to those watching that you are a Christian (John 13:35). 

It won’t be your opposing comments. It won’t be your opinions of disagreement. It won’t be your frustration. It won’t be your obsession to be right. It won’t be your addiction to control others. And it won’t be your hope for a perfect holiday season in the way you expect it to go. 

It will be your love. 

Think back to the father who refused to attend the wedding of his daughter. 

When she told her parents that she was a lesbian and had been FOR QUITE SOME TIME, that meant it was brand new information to her parents but something she was scared or uncomfortable to bring up to her own Christian parents. 

That’s heart-breaking. 

That tells me there wasn’t a culture of grace and belonging no matter what someone does or who they view themselves to be in this household. Instead of love, there was fear. Instead of compassion, there was control. 

One daily action I have been doing every morning is praying through the fruit of the Spirit over the day at hand. 

The 9 fruit of the Spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). 

Each morning I have been praying specifically, God, give me Your joy so I can give it to others. Give me Your patience so I can give it to my children. Give me Your gentleness so I can be gentle when things don’t go my way. Give me Your self-control when my emotional responses want to bring separation.

The reason these fruit are from the Spirit is because you cannot manufacture them on your own will-power. And since the holiday season is already an emotionally-charged time of year, trying to approach holiday events with others on your own strength with no preparation of prayer is going to be disastrous. 

Run through the fruit of the Spirit in earnest prayer before any holiday gathering this year and prepare yourself to be Jesus. 

You can’t control what others say or what news they give, but with the Spirit’s help, you can react like Jesus to whatever conversations occur. 

Thanks for reading, you are so loved. 

Z

Choose Your Parents Carefully

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Fa-la-la-la-la, la, la, la lots of extended families are going to reunite and spend time together over the holidays. There will be lots of weight-gaining. Lots of gift-giving. Lots of tradition-keeping. There will also be a lot of people holding their tongue, sweeping annoyances and issues toward loved ones under the Christmas rug.  We would love for the holidays to be a time we look forward to, not just something we have to get through.

One of the things all of us have in common is we were all once children. I was a child. You were a child. We’re all brought into this world through a biological mother and a biological father. If you didn’t come into the world that way, either you were lied to or no doubt NASA would like to talk to you.

One summer on a road trip to visit loved ones I saw a billboard alongside the highway that read this:

Choose Your Parents Carefully. 

It made me COL (Chuckle Out Loud) because the greatest irony in life is we get to pick our friends, pick our interests, pick our college, pick the vehicle we drive, pick our job, pick our sports teams, pick the church we’re involved in, pick the person we want to marry, pick the names of our children, pick the home we live in, but when it comes to the MOST formative relationship we will experience on earth, who raises us in our developmental years, we don’t have a say in the matter whatsoever. No one gets to choose their parent(s) or the people who raise them.

The parent-child relationship is the most influential earthly relationship because it affects how the child’s future adult relationships will look. I’m not sure every parent is asking, Am I raising this child to have adult relationships that are set up for health and success?

In culture today there’s another generation (this isn’t new) rising up that is being wounded by parents who were wounded by their parents. Many parent-child relationships are just surviving and getting by instead of thriving and loving life together. There’s much baggage there to be reminded of and it’s a very uncomfortable place. Holiday get-togethers seem to bring this to the surface.

For the parents who maybe weren’t spiritually-equipped to raise your children and you have this heavy regret that sticks around in your heart, there is so much grace from God for you.

For those of you who grew up in a home where your parents were not adequately, spiritually-equipped to raise you and you’ve got pain and anger and mental struggles, there’s grace from God for you too.

Let me make sure what I hope we all know already: there’s no perfect family. Anywhere. Enjoy your Christmas movies but know you don’t live in Whoville. The family I grew up in was a strong Christian home but there was still pain and drama. Even Jesus’ earthly family had conflict and separation. There are no perfect parents, no perfect children, no perfect outcomes in the home. If you’ve got it rough at home, so does everyone else in some way. We’re not looking for perfect. We should be looking for healthy.

Healthy relationships start in healthy homes led by healthy parents. 

If our children are going to have healthy relationships as they grow older it begins by healthy parents showing them what a healthy home looks like. If we can see how God has made the parent-child relationship as it is supposed to be, it will help all of us see how our adult-adult relationships are supposed to look as well.

God created man and woman to be together – not just sexually, not just in the same home, not just as roommates, not just stuck with each other, not just some good moments – but to love and serve and enjoy each other every day, together.

One theologian put it this way:

“We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with our weirdness, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.” Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

That’s deep. That’s Barry White deep.

When a man and a woman fall into this mutual weirdness called love, God then invites them to participate in what He does best, which is creating life. God created the man and the woman to become one flesh, this mysterious collection of body and soul coming together and what that physical and spiritual union produces is this small, purple wrinkly, cone-shaped head little baby that eats and sleeps and ruins onesies 24/7.

This is when the most important earthly relationship begins. A parent doesn’t just love the infant, they begin to shepherd them towards emotional, relational and spiritual health.

Parenting is the most exhausting thing you’ll continually participate in (and all the parents reading this blog said,  AMEN). Parenting is the most selfless, hardest, most rewarding activity one can do this side of heaven, when it’s done as God intends. There’s selfish parenting. There’s fear-filled parenting. There’s lazy parenting. There’s heart-aching, abusive and absent parenting. That’s not what God intends.

A woman told me that her husband walked out on their family, leaving her to care for their three young kids by herself. She said to me, I’m realizing after serving my husband for years, he never really loved me as God intended him to. 

That’s hard to swallow.

After she factored in some more hindsight she said, I’m seeing it clearly. The reason he didn’t or couldn’t love me is because the love of God wasn’t in him. He’s not a Christ-follower. She had some more revelation and said, The more I think about it, the love of God was not in my husband’s father either. Then she said, And neither was the love of God in his grandfather.

BINGO.

Our values and behavior patterns aren’t only formed in us physically. They have been passed down to us from our parents. This is where we have a choice to make. It’s a choice on whether or not we are going to pass these same values and behavior patterns onto our children and the next generation.

The child in the home is supposed to look at mom and dad and see the clearest picture of God they will see in any of their upbringing relationships. The best picture of church a child can see is not in a church building. It’s at home.

If mom and dad don’t live like God then the children they have will be confused about who God is.

They’ll be confused about how God loves, how God forgives, how good and committed God is, how God serves, how God provides, how God is holy, how God heals.

What also can be said is,

If mom and dad don’t trust God in all things then their children will have issues trusting God.

A baby is wired to be dependent on mom and dad because a baby is completely helpless. If mom and dad don’t provide the physical/emotional/spiritual health every child deserves and needs when they are helpless, that baby will grow to learn to depend and provide for only themselves and eventually they’ll struggle to trust adults. They will struggle to trust God. They will be confused about what God created them for by living independent from (against) God and living independent (isolated) from others around them.

If you haven’t yet put the puzzle pieces together on why you’ve had trust issues in your relationships, why you’ve struggled experiencing contentment no matter the circumstances, why you’ve had difficulty giving and receiving love, the answer can be this simple: Maybe mom and dad didn’t do what God had called them to do. Forgive them. Love them still. Be who they were supposed to be for you going forward. Be right now who you needed when you were younger.

Prove your love to your children by choosing to shepherd them. We agree our kids grow up and leave home in the blink of an eye, so there is no questioning how fast time will go. The question is will parents be ushering their children toward unhealthy adult relationships, or healthy ones?

Set a resilient goal to not have any arguments over the next month when celebrating the birth of the One who came to bring peace.

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)

Thanks for reading. You are loved.

Z