“Do not think I came to bring peace to the earth; I came to bring, not peace, but a sword.”—MATTHEW 10:34.
1, 2. (a) What peace can we have now? (b) Why is it not possible for us to have complete peace yet? (See opening picture.)
WE ALL want peace in our lives, and we want to avoid anxiety. So we are very thankful that Jehovah gives us “the peace of God.” That peace is a calmness that can protect us from upsetting thoughts and feelings. (Philippians 4:6, 7) Because we have dedicated ourselves to Jehovah, we also have “peace with God.” This means that we have a good relationship with him.—Romans 5:1.
2 However, it is not yet God’s time to bring complete peace to the earth. We live in the last days, so there are many problems that cause us anxiety. We are surrounded by violent people. (2 Timothy 3:1-4) We also have to fight against Satan and the false teachings he promotes. (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5) But what may cause us the greatest anxiety is opposition from our relatives who do not serve Jehovah. Some of them might make fun of our beliefs or accuse us of dividing the family. They may even say that we can no longer be part of the family unless we stop serving Jehovah. So how should we view opposition from our family? And how can we maintain our peace when this happens?
HOW SHOULD WE VIEW OPPOSITION FROM OUR FAMILY?
3, 4. (a) What effect do Jesus’ teachings have? (b) When would it be especially difficult to follow Jesus?
3 Jesus knew that not everyone would accept his teachings. He also knew that his disciples would need courage because some would oppose them. This opposition could affect the peace of their families. Jesus said: “Do not think I came to bring peace to the earth; I came to bring, not peace, but a sword. For I came to cause division, with a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Indeed, a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.”—Matthew 10:34-36.
4 What did Jesus mean when he said “Do not think I came to bring peace”? He wanted people to know that there would be consequences if they became his disciples. Of course, Jesus’ purpose was to teach people the truth about God, not to divide families. (John 18:37) But his disciples needed to know that it would not always be easy to follow him, especially if their close friends or family members did not accept the truth.
5. What have Jesus’ followers experienced?
5 Jesus said that opposition from family is one of the things his followers must be willing to endure. (Matthew 10:38) In order to please him, Jesus’ disciples have endured when their families made fun of them or even rejected them. But they have gained far more than they have lost.—Read Mark 10:29, 30.
6. What must we remember if our relatives oppose us?
6 Even if our relatives oppose us because we worship Jehovah, we still love them. We must remember, however, that our love for God and Christ needs to be stronger than our love for anyone else. (Matthew 10:37) We also need to be aware that Satan could use our love for our family to cause us to be disloyal to Jehovah. Let us discuss some difficult situations and see how we can endure.
AN UNBELIEVING MATE
7. How should you view your situation if your mate does not serve Jehovah?
7 The Bible warns us that anyone who gets married “will have tribulation,” or problems. (1 Corinthians 7:28) If you are married to someone who does not serve Jehovah, this may add more stress and anxiety to your marriage. However, it is important that you view your situation the way Jehovah does. He says that we cannot separate from or divorce our mate just because he or she does not serve Jehovah. (1 Corinthians 7:12- 16) If your husband does not serve Jehovah and does not take the lead in true worship, you still need to respect him as the head of your family. And if your wife does not serve Jehovah, you still need to love her and tenderly care for her.—Ephesians 5:22, 23, 28, 29.
8. What questions can you ask yourself if your mate tries to limit your worship?
8 What should you do if your mate tries to limit your worship? The husband of one sister told her that she could use only certain days of the week to go in the ministry. If you are in a similar situation, ask yourself: ‘Is my mate asking me to stop worshipping Jehovah completely? If not, can I do what my mate is asking?’ If you are reasonable, you will have fewer problems in your marriage.—Philippians 4:5.
9. How can Christians teach their children to honor an unbelieving parent?
9 It can be difficult to train your children if your mate does not serve Jehovah. For example, you need to teach your children to obey the Bible’s command: “Honor your father and your mother.” (Ephesians 6:1-3) But what should you do if your mate does not follow Bible standards? You can set a good example for your children by honoring your mate. Think about his or her good qualities, and tell your mate that you are grateful for all the good things he or she does. Do not say negative things about your mate in front of your children. Instead, explain to them that each person must choose whether to serve Jehovah. If you train your children to honor their unbelieving parent, their good example may make your mate want to learn about Jehovah.
10. How can Christian parents teach their children to love Jehovah?
10 Some unbelieving mates may want their children to celebrate pagan holidays or learn false religious teachings. Some husbands may also forbid the Christian wife to teach the Bible to the children. But even in such a situation, a wife will do what she can to teach her children the truth. (Acts 16:1; 2 Timothy 3:14, 15) For example, an unbelieving husband may not want his wife to have a formal Bible study with the children or take them to the meetings. While she respects his decision, she can still talk to her children about her beliefs whenever possible. In that way, they can learn about Jehovah and his standards of right and wrong. (Acts 4:19, 20) In the end, the children will have to decide whether they will serve Jehovah. * (See footnote.)—Deuteronomy 30:19, 20.
RELATIVES WHO OPPOSE TRUE WORSHIP
11. What may cause a problem with our relatives who do not serve Jehovah?
11 When we first began studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses, we may not have informed our family. But as our faith grew, we realized that we needed to tell them that we wanted to serve Jehovah. (Mark 8:38) Your loyalty to God may have caused a problem between you and your family. Let us discuss some things that you can do to maintain peace and still remain faithful to Jehovah.
If we understand how our family members feel, we will find it easier to teach them the truth
12. Why may our relatives oppose us, but how can we show them that we care about their feelings?
12 Try to understand how your unbelieving relatives feel. We are so happy that we know the truth from the Bible. However, our relatives may believe that we have been tricked or have become part of a strange religious group. They may think that we do not love them anymore because we do not celebrate holidays with them. They may even fear that something bad will happen to us after we die. We need to try to understand how they feel and listen carefully to what they say in order to know why they are concerned about us. (Proverbs 20:5) The apostle Paul tried to understand “people of all sorts” so that he could teach them the good news. If we try to understand our family members, this may actually help us know how to teach them the truth.—1 Corinthians 9:19-23.
13. How should we speak with our unbelieving relatives?
13 Speak with mildness. “Let your words always be gracious,” says the Bible. (Colossians 4:6) That may not be easy. We can ask Jehovah for his holy spirit to help us to be mild and kind to our relatives. We should not try to argue with them about all their false beliefs. If we feel hurt by something they say or do, we can imitate the apostles. Paul said: “When insulted, we bless; when persecuted, we patiently endure; when slandered, we answer mildly.”—1 Corinthians 4:12, 13.
14. What are the benefits of good conduct?
14 Maintain good conduct. Why is that important? Although speaking in a mild way can help us keep peace with our relatives, our good conduct can be even more powerful. (Read 1 Peter 3:1, 2, 16.) Let your relatives see from your example that Jehovah’s Witnesses have happy marriages, take good care of their children, live by Bible standards, and have a meaningful life. Even if our relatives never accept the truth, we can be happy knowing that our good conduct pleases Jehovah.
15. How can we plan ahead so that we can avoid arguments with our relatives?
15 Plan ahead. Think about situations that might cause arguments with your relatives. Then decide what you will do. (Proverbs 12:16, 23) That is what one sister in Australia did. Her father-in-law strongly opposed the truth and would sometimes get angry. So before calling him, she and her husband would ask Jehovah to help them avoid answering him in an angry way. They would think of pleasant subjects they could talk about. And to avoid long conversations that would usually lead to arguments about religion, they set a time limit for the calls.
Your loyalty to Jehovah must be stronger than your love for your family
16. How can you overcome feelings of guilt about displeasing your relatives?
16 Of course, you cannot avoid all disagreements with your unbelieving relatives. So when there is a disagreement, you may feel guilty because you love your relatives and want to please them. But remember that your loyalty to Jehovah must be stronger than your love for your family. When your relatives realize this, they may understand how important serving Jehovah is. You cannot force anyone to accept the truth. You can, however, let others see how following Jehovah’s ways has helped you. And really, Jehovah offers them the same opportunity he offers us, to choose to serve him.—Isaiah 48:17, 18.
IF A FAMILY MEMBER LEAVES JEHOVAH
17, 18. What can help you if a family member leaves Jehovah?
17 When a family member is disfellowshipped or disassociates himself from the congregation, it can be extremely difficult. It can be so painful that it may feel as if someone is stabbing you with a sword. How can you endure this pain?
18 Keep focused on your service to Jehovah. When you have that kind of pain, you need to strengthen your own faith. Read the Bible regularly, prepare for and go to the meetings, continue preaching, and pray to Jehovah to give you the strength to endure. (Jude 20, 21) What if you are doing all of this and the pain does not go away? Do not give up! Keep focused on your service to Jehovah. In time, this will help you to control your thoughts and your feelings. That is what happened to the writer of Psalm 73. He went through a time in his life when it was difficult for him to control his thoughts and feelings. But worshipping Jehovah helped him to view things the right way again. (Psalm 73:16, 17) It can be the same for you.
19. How can you show respect for the way Jehovah disciplines his people?
19 Respect the discipline of Jehovah. God knows that his discipline will benefit everyone involved, including the one who is disfellowshipped. Even though it is very painful when someone we love is disciplined, it can help him or her to return to Jehovah in the future. (Read Hebrews 12:11.) Until then, we must respect Jehovah’s direction to “stop keeping company” with those who are disfellowshipped. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13) This is not easy. But we must avoid contact with them by telephone, text messages, letters, e-mails, or social media.
We keep hoping our loved ones will return to Jehovah
20. What should we keep hoping for?
20 Never give up hope! Love “hopes all things,” so we keep hoping our loved ones will return to Jehovah. (1 Corinthians 13:7) If you see evidence that a close family member is improving his or her attitude, you could pray for him or her to gain strength from the Bible and accept Jehovah’s invitation: “Return to me.”—Isaiah 44:22.
21. What should you do if your family opposes you because you are following Jesus?
21 Jesus said that we must love him more than we love any human. And Jesus was sure that his disciples would have the courage to remain loyal to him even if their family opposed them. So if your family opposes you because you are following Jesus, rely on Jehovah. Ask him to help you endure successfully. (Isaiah 41:10, 13) Find happiness in knowing that Jehovah and Jesus are pleased with you and that they will reward your faithfulness.