Ever since I became a Christian at the ripe old age of 18 I’ve been trying to share the gospel with my parents. Not surprisingly, they weren’t receptive to my early methods, driven as they were by excessively youthful enthusiasm. My decision to give up all for gospel preaching in my late twenties only increased their hardness towards that message. Things have improved over the years, perhaps as they saw my maturing, and my steadfastness of faith, but it’s only now as I seek to care for them in their advancing years, that I may be winning a hearing.
It’s been a hard mission field. If a prophet is without honour in his home-town, how much more in his home? Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:22 certainly stacked the odds against us, it’s hard to be heard while being hated. But the Bible says that ‘hated and without honour’ is the lot for those who follow in Jesus’ steps. Yet still, the outcome of faithful living can be others’ salvation. The example of wives winning their unbelieving husbands to Christ in 1 Peter 3:1-2 certainly gives us hope.
Evangelism among family can be a long process, but the passage of time is also surprisingly swift. One moment you’re the youth of the family clashing spiritedly with your ‘misguided’ parents who are despairing over their ‘misguided’ teenager. The next moment, as the ageing process begins to overtake them, you find yourself with the maturity to see their needs and meet them. The Bible tells us to honour our parents. As children we do it by obeying them, as young adults by the good life choices we make, and in their old age it’s by caring for them. It is a privilege to do so.
This change in relationship dynamics has brought about a change in my parents’ perspective towards the gospel. At first, my faith was seen as a youthful hobby, not unlike their own keen church involvement in the era when most people did such things. It then became a worryingly narrow perspective, a thing of bigotry in the midst of our tolerant modern society. But lately the knowledge of God is becoming for them a comfort, a hope to turn to in the anxious time of a serious illness. I pray it’s also seen as the reason for my (attempts at) selfless service. 1 Peter 2:12 speaks of honourable conduct among the Gentiles not being well-received at first, but eventually leading to them glorifying God. While the context of serving parents is not identical, there are certainly strong similarities. It is my prayer that my deeds will have the same effect on my parents. I pray that they will be serving Jesus when he returns. But whether or not that is God’s plan, it is his will for me to care for them.
To walk with my parents through the changing seasons of life has been profound. I’m nowhere near the end of the journey yet, there will be new stages ahead, stages that I’m just glimpsing now. They don’t have too much time, but I know I can trust in God’s merciful patience. And I know my call to faithful service. 1 Timothy 5:8 says that a Christian who does not care for their own household is worse than an unbeliever. I’ll seek to continue to live out my faith, and pray that in addition to pleasing God, it will enable my parents to also trust in him.
If you’re coming to terms with your parents getting older, can I encourage you to embrace it as an opportunity to please God as you live faithfully before them? And if your parents aren’t believers, do persevere with this valuable opportunity to show Christ’s love as you care for them.
At the author’s request, this article has been released anonymously.