If there was one thing we'll all do this week (besides open presents, eat lots of food and spend time with family), it will be to…
Maybe it’s always been the case, but it seems there’s a lot we can disagree on these days. In fact, there’s probably a whole host of issues that could turn a lovely Thanksgiving dinner into a lively (unlovely) debate. All it takes is a handful of people and one controversial issue, and pleasantries are out the door.
Not to say there aren’t important issues worthy of discussion, but before we air our opinions casually around the Thanksgiving table, we need to make sure the topic is worth the possible tension. Especially with non-Christian family and friends, we must remember to pick our battles carefully. Ultimately, we want to represent the gospel more than any side issue — and thus it’s prudent to avoid whatever topics detract from our efforts.
Remember Your Mission
In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul reminds us of our mission. He tells us we’ve been entrusted with the message of reconciliation as ambassadors for Christ. Furthermore, we’re the kind of people who should beg non-Christians to reconcile with God (2 Corinthians 5:19-20). So ambassadors are what we are, and evangelism is what we do. And this God-given identity and task carries with it obvious ramifications for our Thanksgiving conversations (or any conversations for that matter).
Of course, we might not proclaim the gospel at every holiday function, but it is our job to think like, and talk like, representatives of Christ would. And having that goal in mind sometimes implies we keep quiet about the less important issues.
Just picture a representative of a particular nation doing life in a foreign land. Sure there’s plenty of normal stuff they’d be doing, but only if it didn’t prevent them from doing their job well. Only if it didn’t detract from their mission. And only if it didn’t make their country of origin look bad. And those are the exact issues at stake for the representative of Jesus.
Represent Jesus Well
If you are going to represent Jesus well, you need to think like him. What is Jesus all about? What does he care about most?
Though you may feel strongly about any number of issues, the ones that should get you especially fired up are matters related to heaven and hell, sin and death, forgiveness and salvation— the issues Jesus died for. So first of all, we should start there in our passions. No social injustice, or political angle, or economic concern, should come close in our hearts. Moreover, this should be obvious in what comes out of our mouths.
Then, when (or if) we do go to talk about those lesser (albeit important) issues, we need to represent Jesus well in the way in which we communicate. We need to speak with patience and love, grace and kindness. Which is not usually how conversations of a controversial nature go. But it should absolutely be our aim as ambassadors of Christ. We need to make him look good (because he is good!).
Not only should we consider how well we can fulfill our role as ambassadors before we jump into verbal battles, we should think through the way various topics affect the person we’re talking to. Even if we represent Jesus well, when the people around us put their defenses up, little spiritually productive conversation will follow.
Think of it this way: most people will tolerate a limited amount of controversial discussion, differing ideas, and offensive beliefs. And the gospel might fit into all those categories for the non-Christian. Meaning, you can wear everyone out on lesser issues before even getting to the most important topic there is.
Practically speaking, it’s important to think through whether people will get mad, uptight, defensive, or irritated, when discussing any particular topic. If so, not only does that make for lousy thanksgiving interactions, but it leaves no mental or emotional room to process eternal truths.
Finally, one last problem is potentially coming across as overly opinionated. And let’s be honest, you might be. But the real problem is: Non-Christians may not see the difference between your strong opinions and non-negotiable biblical truth. Eventually it all just gets clumped together as “your opinions.”
All that to say, when thinking strategically as an ambassador, you have to pick your battles — and the one about Jesus is the only hill worth dying on.
Decide What’s Worth Standing For
Realistically, the division the gospel causes (Matthew 10:34-39) might be enough for the day.
We may have thoughts on all sorts of important topics, but our job is to share the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15), not the positions we hold. We stand for Jesus, not a political angle. And we are more passionate about the gospel than any societal wrong.
We are ambassadors for Christ, not ambassadors for our opinions. Let’s represent him well this Thanksgiving!