Preparing for Thanksgiving
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Are you preparied to interact with relatives over controversial topics this holiday season? Darrell Harrison coaches listeners about how to be kind and gracious with family members.
Preparing for Thanksgiving
Michelle: It’s November, so it seems like there are three big things that are on a lot of people’s minds: politics, masks, social justice. Well, writer and author, Darrell Harrison, wants you to remember that, before you start that next big argument, you need to be asking yourself one simple question.
Darrell: We are surrounded by temptations and attractions from the world that would pressure us to be anything other than like Jesus. When it comes to being humble, during this time of Thanksgiving especially, the first thing our flesh wants to tell us is: “Well, you’re going to lose something by taking on that attitude. What will they think of you? They’re going to think you’re weak.” But do you want to be sanctified more than you want to be right?
Michelle: That’s a tough question, and we’re going to explore it with Darrell Harrison today on FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. Thanksgiving is almost here. The smells are in the air: pumpkin spice, apple cinnamon, turkey, stuffing. Is your mouth watering yet? But then, there’s that family around the table; and this year, of all years, there could be that perfect combination—or rather, I should say the perfect storm—for a food fight.
You know what I’m talking about; because your family may have different thoughts on masks or no masks, maybe who our president is and why they voted for him, if our children should be back in school or maybe they need to be homeschooled, or churches should be allowed to meet again; right? There are so many issues. With every single one of those issues, everybody has an opinion. To me, it seems that many people are willing to be argumentative just to make their point.
I have a friend, who is much wiser than me; and he has a lot of experience in diffusing difficult situations and verbal spars. His name is Darrell Harrison, and he is social media director at Grace to You. He’s also a blogger and a podcaster, and an all-around biblically-wise man. I asked him to help us think through these situations that we might be facing around the Thanksgiving table. Here's my conversation with Darrell.
Michelle: Okay; so Thanksgiving is just a few days away. Darrell, how should we be preparing our hearts for Thanksgiving?
Darrell: Yes, I think that’s a great question. Number one, Michelle, I think the first word that comes to my mind when it comes to preparing our hearts for Thanksgiving is a word that we often take for granted until Thanksgiving rolls around; and that’s the word, “humility.” I think if we, as believers/as we who profess to be believers in Jesus Christ, truly want to demonstrate that reality to others during this time of year, we need to look back at how Jesus modeled that.
I would argue that perhaps the most evident attribute of Jesus, as far as what He demonstrated to others during His earthly ministry, was His humility. I think, as we approach Thanksgiving—and we all have a mindset of giving thanks to our Lord God for all that He has done for us—I think humility is an attitude that we need to earnestly ask the Lord to help us inculcate into our hearts and our minds to remove self from some of the conversations and the interactions that we’re going to have with family and friends.
Obviously, we’re not naïve to the fact that some of those interactions and conversations are going to be very difficult during this time of year, but we need to pray that the Lord will allow us to remove ourselves/remove from us any self-attention—anything that we value in terms of our own importance/our own significance in terms of what’s important to us personally—and give deference to other people in listening to them, and being open in our minds and hearts to hear them, and truly listen through a lens of objective truth, meaning the objective truth of the Word of God as opposed to listening to them through our own subjective paradigm of what is right/wrong, or positions, or perspectives, what have you.
Michelle: That’s difficult, Darrell.
Michelle: I mean, just as you’re talking about that, I’m sitting here, going, “Okay, yes!” Those words seem like it should be so easy to attain, and yet just how do we get there?
Darrell: You know, in my role, here at Grace to You, I’m on social media all the time. I sent a tweet a couple of days ago; in the first part of that tweet, I said this: “It’s easy to be like Jesus until you have to be like Jesus.”
Darrell: You’re absolutely right; it’s easy for us to get the words out, but it’s difficult for us to act those words oftentimes. I mean, we’re talking about how Scripture teaches us—right?—that when you come to Christ, Christ calls you to die. That’s what Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”
It’s not easy to die/it’s not easy to die to ourselves. It is not easy, because we have, in this sin-drenched world in which we live, we are surrounded by attentions, temptations, and attractions from the world that would pressure us to be anything other than like Jesus. When it comes to being humble, during this time of Thanksgiving especially, the first thing our flesh wants to tell us is: “Well, you’re going to lose something by taking on that attitude. What will they think of you? They’re going to think you’re weak. They’re going to think you’re giving in/that you’re compromising.”
We have to be able to be like Jesus, and say to ourselves: “Listen, I’m an ambassador for Christ; I’m not an ambassador for myself.” When you look at what Christ did—as the Scriptures say, “He laid down His rights. He did not take equality with God as a thing to be taken advantage of,”—we have to be able to die to ourselves and trust that God is going to be glorified. We want God to get the glory in our conversations and not ourselves. It’s not easy; but when you look at what the fruit of that might be—the fruit being that God is going to get the glory out of that—that should, at least, inspire us or motivate us to, at least, attempt to die to ourselves in those situations.
Michelle: You know, I really like what you just said about how it does look like you’re being weak if you’re not saying something or if you’re not making your point; because we live in such a confusing time—where we’ve just gone through a political season; we have social unrest; we have, you know, a pandemic going on—we have so much. Everybody has an opinion about what’s going on. Everybody’s opinion, to them, is correct. No one’s in the gray anymore; everyone’s always in the black or the white, and they’re willing to die on that sword at all costs.
With that “weakness,” do we need to appear weak to keep the peace? Should we just keep our mouths shut? How can we even begin to enter a conversation?
Darrell: Yes; I think, when you consider that question, we, as Christians, can go about, at least, trying to facilitate that unity. Again, let’s not be naïve here; Thanksgiving is one of the most contentious periods of the year for many, many individuals as they get together with family and friends. Thanksgiving is not always a time of peace; okay?
But we have to be able to define: “What is unity, biblically?” As much as we would like to have as much unity with others as we possibly can, there are some layers to that; okay? When we talk about all of these issues that can divide us, unity has to, first of all, be based in the truth.
I think of, for instance, Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well. You look at that account in John, Chapter 4; Jesus deliberately violated one of the standard cardinal “sins”; right? If you will, I put “sins” in quotation marks because Samaritans had no dealing with Jews; so we know that. But what eventually brought Jesus and the Samaritan woman together? It was Jesus confronting her with the truth. A fruit of that was, toward the end of that story of the Samaritan woman at the well, she went and told other Samarians what Jesus had told her. Jesus ended up staying with them for two days after that. After he stayed there, we read in John 4 that the other Samaritans ended up believing Him as well. We had unity there, but the unity was a byproduct of Jesus confronting her with the truth. We cannot say that we want unity at the expense of truth.
We cannot assume that unity and peace always go together; because sometimes, there’s going to be a cost to be paid when you approach unity under the banner of truth. Not everyone is going to accept the truth.
Michelle: As you’re talking, I’m just sitting here thinking about Grandma Mary or Grandpa Bob wanting a very peaceful Thanksgiving table. If Uncle Keith or Brother Justin come in—and you know, shoot off some words about some biblical truth that might leave the table unrested—I’m just thinking, “It could easily be a divisive conversation,” that leaves people stomping off down the street, going, “Ugg!” and leaving, and closing doors or slamming doors, or what have you. That’s hard!
Darrell: Yes, that’s incredibly hard. Again, you know, I have to point your listeners back to the Gospels; look at what happened to Jesus.
Darrell: Jesus told the truth lovingly; He was very engaging with those, even when crowds were crushing up against Him. That’s the thing: “Truth divides.”
But in your hypothetical there, I think it would be wise for anyone, who has been invited to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, to respect their wishes and, at least, not at the dinner table engage in any conversation or bring up any subject matter that may be divisive there at the table. Perhaps there can be some ground rules laid/some protocols laid out by Grandma and Grandpa, whereby you can engage in these conversations, but not at the table.
At the same time, I think Christians need to be able to accept the fact that: “Listen, just like it was in Jesus’ case, it’s not going to be any different for us. No matter how lovingly and how graciously we are in conveying the truth to others—even as we give thanks to the Lord for all of His many, many blessings—the truth makes people uncomfortable.”
The fact that many of us get uncomfortable when we’re presented with the truth—totally refuse the fact that we are masters of our own domain; otherwise, we wouldn’t get uncomfortable about that—so it’s no different than what Jesus told Pilate in John 18. When Pilate asked the rhetorical question, “What is truth?” Jesus already answered that in John 17, where He prayed to the Father, “Lord, sanctify them by Your truth; Your Word is truth.” We need to be able to stand graciously and lovingly on the foundation that God’s Word is true. Whoever disagrees with us is not disagreeing with us; they are disagreeing with God. Knowing that, I think we can still keep our composure, still love on those folks, and not take any of that personally.
Michelle: That’s good; that’s really good.
We need to take a break; but when we come back, Darrell, my engineer and I are going to do a little role play of a possible argument at a Thanksgiving table. I am hoping that you can be the referee and talk us through how to really, at that point, bring the emotions down and think through things, biblically.
Darrell: Sounds like fun! [Laughter]
Michelle: Okay; stay tuned. We’ll be right back.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. I am talking today with Darrell Harrison. We are preparing ourselves for Thanksgiving and the possible conversations that we’re going to have around the family dinner table.
[Role Playing During Previous Interview]
Michelle: You know, I was at the grocery store yesterday. There was this lady walking around without a mask. Can you guys believe that!? I mean, seriously? We’re talking about Thanksgiving; everybody is getting all of their pumpkin pie recipe stuff and everything like that, and she was walking around without a mask! She could have gotten so many people sick!
Justin: Michelle, can I jump in here for a second? Back, several months ago, we didn’t know what this thing was; you know? Back in March, when it started, we were scared of it; and we didn’t know how bad this was going to be. I felt like, you know, we needed to be very responsible and careful with it. But now, it’s been how many months? We kind of know what’s going on, and we need to let the thing run its course and get back to normal. We’re letting this thing drive us into fear and kill our society. Let’s just get back to normal.
Michelle: What do you mean, “getting back to normal”? People are dying! Have you not seen some of the research?—that if you’re not wearing a mask, people are/those particles coming out of your mouth—like at church, when you’re singing and everything like that—people are dying because of that.
Justin: Do you know how many things in that statement you just said are wrong? It doesn’t actually come out of your mouth; it comes out of your nose. If you’re going to wear a mask, it needs to cover your nose, not your mouth.
Also, all of the people who have died—that I have seen—have had underlying conditions; they’ve been at higher risk. Yes; they need to be more careful, but most of us are going to be fine. We’re not going to need to go to the hospital. The hospitals have plenty of beds for the people who need it. If we could just get through this, and get back to normal, we could get our economy started again; we could get people back into jobs. We cannot live in fear.
Michelle: It’s people like you who are causing others to die. I can’t believe you’re being so reckless!
Darrell: Okay, timeout; timeout! [Laughter] Timeout; timeout! [Laughter] May the referee jump in here?—because that was pretty sharp. [Laughter] That was pretty sharp, Michelle; that was pretty sharp. If I may jump in here with one Scripture verse; please?
Darrell: And I have a question for both of you.
Darrell: I’m going to read Hebrews 12, verses 14 and 15/Hebrews 12, verses 14 and 15: “Pursue peace with all men and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble and by it many be defiled.” That was Hebrews 12, verses 14 and 15.
Now, my question is for both of you: “What do you hope to achieve by this conversation?”
Michelle: That I’m right!
Darrell: Exactly; that’s what I thought. That’s exactly what I thought.
And then, what will demonstrate to you that you’re right?—that he just shuts down?
Justin: Convincing Michelle that I’m right would prove that I’m right. [Laughter]
Michelle: He wants me to just shut down and say, “Okay, yes; you’re right.”
Darrell: Right; right. But did you get the key word there in that text that I just read from Hebrews 12?— “…and the sanctification”; “…and the sanctification”; “…and the sanctification.” [Laughter] Do you want to be sanctified more than you want to be right?
Michelle: Oh, that’s the good Christian answer, Darrell.
Darrell: Hello! [Laughter] We were just talking about truth before the break.
Darrell: So yes; I would prefer the truth and not just the Christian answer: “Don’t tell me what you think I want to hear.”
Michelle: Right; right.
Darrell: Sanctification will be a byproduct of you telling the truth. Do you want to be sanctified in this conversation more than you want to be right?
Michelle: That’s really difficult; because we live in such a society, where we have to be right. Like we talked before—we don’t want to appear weak.
How would it have been best for me to handle that conversation? Even though I want to be right, how could I have entered it differently?
Darrell: This may sound really weird, but I think there’s a question that you would have wanted to ask yourself before you even entered the conversation; that question is: “Do I want to enter this conversation? And if I do, why do I want to enter this conversation?”
Darrell: Okay? I think that’s a very important question: “What is my motive here for entering this conversation?” Again, Paul talks about how we need to examine ourselves. You don’t have much time—if someone brings up an issue to you, or approaches you with a question that could potentially lead to a contentious conversation—you really don’t have much time to ask and answer those questions for yourself; okay?
But I believe that, if you took the time to answer those questions, you would find, more times than not, you will be able to say, “I respect your position; I respect the question/I understand the question, but I don’t really think this is the environment or the time to get into a conversation like that.” You have to run the risk of being perceived as weak by others. You just have to run that risk and be okay with it. If that’s how they perceive you, you have to be okay with that.
Again, I think that’s the same—to a smaller degree, of course—but that’s the same mindset/attitude that Jesus had. I love it where it says of Jesus that: “…for the glory set before Him, He endured the cross and despised the shame,”—“…and despised the shame.” You have to be willing to endure that shame, for the moment, for the glory that Christ is going to get ahead of time. Who knows?—maybe that person will reflect back on the fact that you deferred to them. You didn’t engage them in the conversation; they may reflect back on that and say, “You know what? That was a very gracious example that she set.” Yes, you may want to just go ahead and defer; take the shame at the moment, and then let God handle it from there.
Michelle: Yes; that’s good.
Okay; I have one last question for you, Darrell. Let’s say that Sister Megan is sitting across the table. It’s obvious to everybody that she is lost; she doesn’t know Christ. How do we share the gospel with her?
Darrell: Wow; that’s a great question. That’s a great, great question. Regardless of whether there are issues in Megan’s life or not, what would be burdensome to me is helping her recognize, as gently and as lovingly as possible, that: “Sister Megan, you’re going to die one day.”
We’re already talking about how we’re in the midst of a pandemic. Thousands of people have died, who came into the year 2020, not expecting to die this year; okay? That is a hard reality that we all have to face. I would ask, “Listen, have you considered your eternal destiny? Have you considered, from the moment you were conceived in Mom’s womb, you began an eternal destiny/an eternal journey, where you’re going to meet your Creator one day? Have you thought about that?”
You know, not trying to scare Sister Megan into the kingdom; but at the same time, death is a reality. Let her know that she doesn’t have to wonder about where she will spend eternity if, in fact, this is her last Thanksgiving. There is a God, who loves her; there is a God, who we know, from Acts, Chapter 17, verse 27, created you in His image so that you can know Him/so that you can find Him and know Him for who He is and His love for you.
Again, I would give deference to Sister Megan. I wouldn’t push the gospel on her; but I would prayerfully ask the Lord, “Is this the right opportunity to present her with the gospel?” And if so, “Lord, give me the words to say to her.” Then, lastly, I’ll just say this: “Understand that it’s not your job to make Megan believe.
Darrell: “Your job begins and ends with rightly sharing the gospel/accurately sharing the gospel, and then you leave the effectual aspect of that sharing of the gospel up to God.”
Michelle: Such good words from Darrell Harrison. In fact, the entire conversation was so meaningful to me and, actually, so timely for me. A few days after I talked with Darrell, I was given the chance to put his words into practice. A call came in from someone, who is close to me. This person wanted to talk about politics, and wanted me to see their side and to agree with them, and then spent the rest of the night, researching articles to prove me wrong and to broaden my narrow mind.
You know, during this conversation, I was able to keep my cool; because I kept reminding myself of the words that Darrell used: “It’s okay to appear weak. You need to be humble. You need to have the mind of Christ.”
I had to block this person, because of how toxic this conversation became. I contacted Darrell, and I shared with him my experience. Here were his words to me: “I want you to meditate on Luke 12: 52-53”—and here are those words: “From now on, there will be five in one family divided against each other: three against two; two against three. They will be divided father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law,”—that’s not easy. Those were words from Jesus. That’s kind of a little bit scary; right?
Along with that, some Scripture has just been coming to my mind lately. You remember the armor of God from Ephesians 6:13?—“Therefore, put on the full armor of God; so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground; and after all you have done, to stand.” I think we need to remember and put Darrell’s words into practice. Sometimes, all we have to do is stand; we don’t have to make defense of ourselves.
You know, remember a couple of weeks ago?—I shared 1 Corinthians 13/those words with you—“Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It does not dishonor others. It’s not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” You know, all of those words are from Scripture/from God’s Word.
I’m just processing through those words, processing through encouragement from Darrell, and processing through that conversation [with someone close]; and praying, “What is my role in healing this relationship? What is God asking of me?” Maybe you need to be asking that same thing, too, as you prepare your heart for this Thanksgiving meal.
Hey, next week, we are going to talk with Greg Smalley of Focus on the Family®. We’re going to talk about the stresses we face in a marriage of sheltering in place for months, after months, after months, after months. It feels that long; right? It’s going to be a great, encouraging, and also helpful conversation with Greg Smalley. That’s next week on FamilyLife This Week.
Hey, thanks for listening. I want to thank the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Thanks to our producers, Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
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