As a missionary with Jews for Jesus, I have become quite experienced in discussing serious issues with people I barely know. Many opportunities arise here in the San Francisco branch for me to talk to unbelieving strangers about Yeshua. They may be those with whom I have just a brief encounter while I’m handing out broadsides, or they may be interested individuals who drop by the Shalom Center or call on the telephone, or someone I visit or call because of a request from a concerned Christian friend.
If nothing else, the one thing such strangers and I do have in common is that we don’t know one another. We start off on an equal footing. Sometimes the transition from being total strangers to building a trusting relationship can be very difficult, and at other times it can be relatively easy. Nevertheless, trying to present the truths of the Messiah to people I don’t know is what I live for. It is my calling, and I often do succeed.
On the other hand, those with whom I find it most difficult to discuss spiritual truths are members of my own family. Undoubtedly, the reason is that my burden for them often shades my emotions and clouds my objectivity. Also, if they are not interested or choose to be offended, I cannot simply walk away. At least with people I don’t know, a conversation can be ended politely and we part company, never to meet again. That is not the case with an aunt, an uncle or a brother-in-law!
In talking to an unbelieving relative, trying to direct the conversation toward more spiritual issues is like walking on eggshells. Often it’s hard for me to know if basic decency is the only motive that keeps that relative from telling me to bug off.” Another factor in my own particular family is that my brother Baruch and I have been believers and staff members with Jews for Jesus for a long time. All the relatives already know what I believe and usually do not care to discuss it. My need to respect my family’s rights to discuss or avoid discussing spiritual matters is in direct tension with my obligation before God to proclaim “the good news.” It’s like walking a tightrope. Sometimes I feel very guilty when I remember that I can speak freely about Yeshua with total strangers, but I get so uneasy with members of my own family. I’m sure, though, that I am not the only believer who has this problem.
All Christians, Jewish or Gentile, face the same dilemma. With family, as with close friends, a patient and sensitive witness is in order. The privileges of those close relationships must be maintained, but hopefully, they will eventually yield opportunities for a clear and effective gospel witness. It does happen! I can say that from experience, having shared my faith with my two brothers, my mother and my grandmother. Over the years, I have seen all of them come to faith.