By Riley Stephenson
Christmas dinner with the family is only a few days away. How can we have a peaceful holiday with those family members we choose to see only once a year at Christmas?
A friend of mine recently shared with me that often people don’t want to go home or be with family over the holidays because it makes them relive the past. Yes, I understand. Especially when there have been abusive circumstances, I can see why people wouldn’t want to be around certain family members.
I have always felt obligated to spend time with family at Christmas, because that’s why we celebrate the holidays, right? At times my wife and I have wanted to spend Christmas break on the beach somewhere, but as parents, we have created certain traditions for our kids and know that they expect them. Or we see on TV that to have a great holiday everything should be perfect—the house should be immaculately decorated, every dish should be prepared with the finest ingredients, and yes, our favorite NFL team should win the game. I like all these things, but they don’t make the holidays easy when things are hard with family members.
The Bible tells us in Colossians 3:13, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (NLT). I have had to forgive family members and friends in the past, and I’m sure that I will have to in the future. I think every one of us has had to forgive. It’s time that we look past our differences and appreciate the people in our families because they are in our lives.
I have heard it said that offense only hurts the offended. It’s true; the person who offended us is going on with his or her life. But too often we stay upset and want to change our family and friends who are not like us—who have different beliefs and thoughts than we do. We are afraid that they may not turn out the way we think they should.
Why do we want to change people? I believe it’s because of a deficiency in love. But Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to “strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up” (NLT). For a long time I allowed a family member’s presence to always trip me up. I finally had to realize that the problem wasn’t with that person—it was with me. I had made their problems my problems.
The Bible says that “love never brings fear, for fear is always related to punishment. But love’s perfection drives the fear of punishment far from our hearts. Whoever walks constantly afraid of punishment has not reached love’s perfection” (1 John 4:18, TPT). Perfected love will remove our fear that our family members will never measure up to our standards. We shouldn’t hold them to our standards anyway; each of us needs to align with God’s standards. I want love’s perfection. I want to see the person who doesn’t speak, think, or act like me through the eyes of love. I want to have a home in which my family and friends can come and not feel judged but loved. We can’t change other people, even if what they are doing is wrong. Only God can change a person’s heart. “God is love” (1 John 4:16), and only love can change a person’s heart. Love never fails. The goodness of “love” will bring people to repentance (see Rom. 2:4). My prayer this holiday season is that love will be supreme in our gatherings—that it will overtake our dinners and parties and bring about restoration in our relationships.
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