The Family Challenge

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A number of students who come to know the Lord in college often face the family challenge. By this I mean failing to reach out to one's relatives, parents and siblings with the Good News of Jesus.

This is not surprising on the one hand because my interactions with students in the past two years made me see how many of them come from essentially "broken" families. Theirs may not be a literal broken family but genuine interaction or concern among the members is essentially lacking.

Parents are too busy with their work. Siblings are focused on their academics, careers, or their peers and "barkada." There is so little room for conversation and "kamustahan" because members spend more time in front of their computers, smartphones or tablets rather than with one another.

But on the other, I find it frightening that students fail to reach out to their closest relatives and families because this shows that something's lacking in their understanding of the Gospel.

I do acknowledge, however, the difficulty of proclaiming Christ especially if you are the youngest or among the younger members of the family. Your authority is simply not there. If you have a strict father or an over bearing mother or successful siblings, what possibility is there for them to believe you?

But in the many years that I have shared Jesus in my own family, God made me realize that it's not a matter of authority or age. In the end, it's about God's grace working intricately with one's testimony and commitment to reach out in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Before I came to know Jesus, I practically took my family for granted. I wasn't really close with my parents and siblings because I was focused on my dreams and ambitions. Thus, when I surrendered my life to Jesus, this was one area He worked in me.

It wasn't easy. Even when I became a believer, I still found it challenging to regain the lost time and affection towards my family. But I made a commitment to do my best to reach out to them. There were times when doing so involved sacrifices and I faced them by God's grace.

I have to admit that there were times when I didn't feel like living out my commitment. But God used several circumstances and people to remind and encourage me to continue.

Just yesterday, for example, I was talking to a brother in Christ whose family is facing challenges. His commitment to love his siblings, parents and relatives coupled with his deep faith in Jesus encouraged me to continue reaching out to my own family.

He's right when he said, "Never take your family for granted. While they're there and while you can, spend time with them. Make them feel that you care."

As much as this is a reminder and a challenge to me, I also leave it as a challenge and a reminder to all student believers. Let us not forget that back in our respective homes is a family that also needs Jesus. Let us pray for them. Let us strive to cultivate deeper relationships with our parents and siblings.

May we never grow tired of loving them even if it's difficult sometimes. And if we've been hurt by those closest to us before, let us ask Christ to teach us to forgive especially now that we've received His forgiveness.

It's no mystery that among God's 10 commandments is an instruction pertaining to our parents, "Honor your father and mother (Exodus 20:12)." The family is God's gift for all practical and spiritual reasons. When we were still young, God provided for us primarily through our parents.

Our first lessons in life came from them. For those who grew up in Christian homes, their first Bible studies were with their fathers and mothers.

And when we look at Jesus, we will see His concern for His earthly mother, Mary. Even in the face of death on the cross,  He remembered to entrust her to John, one of His apostles. He knew that He was leaving soon but He wanted someone to look after His earthly mother.

This is why we read in John 19:26-27, "When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, 'Woman, here is your son,' and to the disciple, 'Here is your mother.' From that time on, this disciple took her into his home."

May we never forget that even if we have spiritual families when we come to Christ, our biological families should remain a passion in our hearts. May we never fall in the trap of escaping from our biological families while substituting our spiritual ones for them. This has never been God's design.

I believe that for many college students who become Christians only in the university, God's purpose is for them to be salt and light in their homes. I pray that we will never miss that opportunity. Sure it is more difficult to minister there, but in the end, Christ never promised us comfort when He called, "Come follow me."

After reading this, may you offer a moment of prayer for your family. I hope that you will also join me in my commitment to reach out to my
parents, siblings and relatives for Jesus. May God bless you all!

In Christ,

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