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Family Feuds and Tensions over the Holidays

Broken people--exiled from the garden--don't always have the best family get-togethers at Christmas time.

Christian blogger Justin Taylor points us toward hope in Jesus, and the enabling grace of the Holy Spirit in our lives:

Rockwell-ThanksgivingNot everyone’s Thanksgiving looks like the idyllic setting Norman Rockwell depicted.

Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation’s  Tim Lane has a booklet entitled Family Feuds: How to Respond, which you can read online for free.

Here’s a summary focused on the holiday celebrations and stresses of family get-togethers.

For some, these gatherings are dreaded and avoided when possible.

Why is that? Why is it so hard to get along with the people you grew up with? Is there any hope that old, hurtful patterns can be changed?

In this booklet, Tim Lane writes about these challenges and how through your relationship with Christ you can learn how to love your family and reach out to them in concrete and practical ways.

Lane begins by rehearsing a number of truths:

1. Every family is flawed

2. Flawed families need God’s grace

3. Your family of origin does not determine your identity

4. God’s call to love includes your family

5. Changed by the cross of Christ

He then gives some practical strategies for change:

1. Respond with grace to your family

2. Take responsibility for your sins, not your family’s

3. Become an instrument of grace

4. Make wise choices for your children

5. Persevere in love

Here’s the conclusion:

Loving your family in these ways will mean dying to self-centeredness and growing in Christ-centeredness. As you pray and ask the Spirit of God to change you, old barriers you have erected between you and your family will come down. This will encourage your family members to take down the barriers they have put up.

As your love for God grows, your movement towards your parents and siblings will be wise. Instead of looking for their validation or approval you will love them the sacrificially, the way Christ has loved you. You will be able to move toward them because God, in Christ, has moved towards you and his love has been poured into your heart (see Romans 5:4). God’s love will flow from you into your relationship with your family. You can depend on the unfailing love of God to change you and your family.

In a complementary piece, Russell Moore offers “a few quick thoughts on what followers of Jesus ought to remember, especially if you’ve got a difficult extended family situation.” He outlines his counsel under five headings:

1. Peace. (“Your presence should be one of peace and tranquility. The gospel you believe ought to be what disrupts. There’s a big difference.”)

2. Honor. (“Pray for God to show you the ways those in your life are worthy of honor, and teach your children to follow you in showing respect and gratitude.”)

3. Humility. (“Unless you’re in an exceptionally sanctified family, you’re going to see failing marriages, parenting crises, and a thousand other shards of the curse. If your response is to puff up as you look at your own situation, there’s a Satanist at your family gathering, and you’re it.”)

4. Maturity. (“Some of the tensions Christians face at holiday time have nothing to do with outside oppression as much as internal immaturity on the part of the Christians themselves.”)

5. Perspective. (“At the Judgment Seat of the Lord Christ, you’ll be responsible for living out the gospel in every arena to which the Spirit has led you . . . including Aunt Flossie’s dining room table.”)

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."  

Romans 12.18


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