How can I honour my parents and honour God? What should I do if they don’t want me to go to church or Bible discussions? What if my extended family finds out? Should I get baptised?
These are not hypothetical questions, but ones some students face daily. New Christians often feel torn between wanting to make their parents happy and wanting to follow Jesus. Often they face ridicule for their faith and pressure to go back to their former religion or their old lifestyle. The Christmas season can be an especially difficult time because Christians often want to celebrate it differently from those around them.
M came to faith from a Hindu background after attending a Bible discussion on her campus. I asked her how this affected her life.
How did your parents respond when you first told them you came to faith?
I remember being so content and satisfied when I came to faith. Jesus’ death and resurrection was the best news I had heard and I felt like my family had to know it. I told my dad in the same week I had come to faith that I believe that Jesus died for my sin. My dad laughed at first but after he saw how serious I was, he yelled at me and said that I live under his roof and I must follow his rules, so no talking about this ‘nonsense’. My mum thought it was only a passing phase so she didn’t respond much, although she’s not too happy about it.
What are some challenges you face at home as a result of your faith?
Living at home is difficult and painful. My actions and words are carefully observed and the moment I make a mistake, I hear: ‘You go to church, is this what they teach you? Is this what the Bible teaches you?’ To be honest, I’m a big sinner. I make a lot of mistakes especially at home because I somehow expect my family to understand. But they don’t and it’s difficult to love them sometimes.
It’s also hard to not always be able to go to Christian conferences or small groups and when my parents try to force me to worship idols on religious days. But the biggest challenge is that I can’t be transparent about my life – I can’t tell them exactly what I’m doing because they won’t understand.
What are some ways you’re trying to love and serve your family?
Loving my family means leaving my comfort zone for the sake of the gospel. I’m an introvert and I get energy by being alone, but to love and serve my family means spending time with them, showing interest in their lives, listening to their stories, praying for them, being patient and careful in the things I say. I also believe that the best way I can love them is by sharing the gospel with them and I take every opportunity I get!
What are some things that have helped or encouraged you personally?
God has answered a lot of prayers. My dad agreed to let me go to church and they don’t question when I read the Bible. And I’m constantly encouraged by those who disciple me. Every time I am frustrated with my family I share it with other Christians who point me to how God would want me to respond. I am growing in my love for my family and in obedience to God.
How can we pray?
I think my biggest prayer request would be that I would be a faithful witness to my family. Pray that I would sacrifice my worldly desires daily for the sake of the gospel and that God would open their hearts like he opened mine.