Visiting Family — Conversations

Visiting Family — Conversations

by Rev. Joshua Reifsteck on October 05, 2021

From the Pastors

Visiting Family — conversations

With many visiting family over Fall Break, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, I thought it would be a good time to think about those conversations, the ones you dread having with family members: morality discussions. You start talking about the weather, and the next thing you know you’re bringing up the 10 commandments, and they’re saying, “I don’t care. I don’t agree!” These conversations can quickly become heated! If this kind of conversation sounds familiar, then before you blow your top, take a deep breath and recognize that it’s not that they don’t know God’s law; they don’t accept it. Surprise! There’s no biblical basis for their morality.

If you find yourself in this increasingly common situation over the next couple months, first, ask yourself, “Do I have a biblical basis for what I’m saying?” If your answer is, “Yes, the Bible says so,” then be prepared to tell them where. If you know where to find that passage, its context, and its interpretation, then congratulations! You’re probably part of the solution, not the problem. But if your answer is, “It’s in there somewhere, I’m sure of it,” then you might just be part of the problem. Your worldview is probably more cultural or political or logical or emotional or even more religious than it is biblical. This is an uncomfortable and confrontational thing for me to say, but it’s important for all Christians to realize that a biblical worldview and biblical morality can only emerge in our lives one way: from reading and knowing and living the Bible. There are no shortcuts, and when it comes to biblical morality, we all have work to do. And knowing is only half the battle if we want to communicate our Bible knowledge to others.

So back to our friends and family members. Note that if they don’t value the commands of God, then even saying, “The Bible says so,” is not going to change their mind (obviously, neither is telling them how wrong they are!). They’ll simply deflect, because they don’t care what the Bible says. Maybe they’ll say, “but your commandments don’t sound loving.” Or maybe they’ll respond, “Sure, it might be nice as an ideal, but that expectation isn’t practical for the real world.” Or maybe they will say, “The Bible is a flawed document written by flawed people. Why would we obey those flawed human commandments?” Or maybe they will simply say, “Well, the Bible is wrong.” The devil has many ways to lead us astray. 

Whatever the case, arguing with someone who doesn’t value God’s law about God’s law is like trying to solve the symptoms of disease, without curing the underlying disease first. If we want to change their mind on any subject of morality, we have to first change their heart’s relationship to God. After all, this is what we confess when we recite the small catechism. The first commandment means “We should fear, love, and trust God above all things,” and every other commandment starts with, “We should fear and love God such that we…” All morality flows from the 1st Commandment. Every commandment assumes the fear and love of God. When they fear and love God above all else, then we can meaningfully discuss divorce or homosexuality or abortion or anything else… But until that time, arguing morality is wasting your breath on the wrong conversations.

So what should we start with instead? Consider starting with the love of God, or forgiveness, or the goodness of God. Talk about the parables of Jesus and their interpretation. None of these conversations are easy, but they may just invigorate your own Bible reading. If we’re to be winsome in these conversations, we need to know the Bible ourselves. We need our own biblical morality and biblical worldview.

God’s Peace,
Pastor Josh Reifsteck