Author and preacher John Piper, last seen explaining why God killing you is His way of showing He loves you, is not a guy anyone should be asking for advice.
But a woman recently asked him how she should evangelize to her non-believing family during Christmas this year. Even more, she wanted to know if it was appropriate to evangelize people she only sees a few times a year:
I’m thinking about a friend or a group of friends or family that you have, and you want to share the gospel with them. You keep waiting for a situation that’s natural and doesn’t come. What I’m suggesting is that you plan a lunch with your friend, or perhaps do this over a lunch you already have planned, and you ask, in all seriousness, either beforehand or in the lunch, if you can share with them something very precious in your own life, because this is what you love to do with good friends or family. This is the furthest thing from shoving the gospel down someone’s throat. You’re asking for permission.
You’re not asking for “permission” when you’re pulling a bait-and-switch over the subject of a conversation.
Now, with regard to Christmas dinner, or all kinds of things that happen when families get together besides dinner, that’s a principle I would commend. Of course, so much hangs on the nature of the relationships: What do they already know about your faith? Whose house is it that you’re eating at? What’s the spirit or mood of the day? How hostile are they? All those things will affect how you approach this.
That’s actually a better answer than I was expecting from Piper, a Calvinist who believes in humanity’s innate depravity — in addition to the extremely toxic belief that abused wives must endure “smacking around.”
But it’s worth pointing out a few things: The woman writing to Piper didn’t mention whether the family is coming to her home, or if she’s going to theirs. If it’s the latter, then yes, proselytizing over dinner is imposing and unwanted and rude. But the alternative, if they’re at her house, doesn’t mean preaching is okay either. If anything, the guests are almost obligated to say yes when asked if they want to hear about “something very precious in my life.”
The writer’s intentions are irrelevant. There is no way to effectively preach to people when they are basically hostages, either literally (such as on an airplane) or socially.
If the eternal fate of these people means that much to her, perhaps she should consider cultivating a more authentic relationship with them rather than the once-a-year gatherings in which they are treated as projects.
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