Easter is my favorite holiday. I love everything about it—the victorious worship songs, the heart-wrenching passion plays, and even the somber reflection of Good Friday, reminding us that our greatest healing was only made possible through the valley of deepest sorrow. Jesus is our risen King, and Easter is a chance to shout God’s truth from the rooftops—He is alive! Our Lord is alive indeed!
Unfortunately, though, beyond my own household, most of my loved ones don’t share my enthusiasm for Jesus. This can make getting together for traditional Christian holidays challenging, discouraging, and sometimes downright depressing.
Over the years I’ve learned some helpful ways to cope and even bless the people in my life whose beliefs don’t gel with mine. Here are my hard-fought suggestions for celebrating Easter with unbelievers.
Invite them to church. They might not come, and in some cases, I’m almost certain they won’t, but that doesn’t stop me from extending the invitation anyway. Why? Because our job is to plant the seed. God is the one who makes it grow. And maybe one of these days they’ll actually decide to take me up on my invitation, and that can only happen if I give it in the first place. I’m not pushy, and I don’t dole out guilt trips. That would only validate their assumptions that God is a killjoy. You and I have an opportunity to show them otherwise. So ask in love and be prepared to hear crickets or worse. If they reject you, you’re in good company. Jesus was rejected, too.
Show up and listen. Don’t react, argue, debate or climb your soapbox. I’ve sat at dinner tables where Jesus was the butt of jokes, but I’ve also been asked honest questions like “What’s so special about your church?” or “Why are you always so optimistic?” It’s a tough call not to let hurtful words or opposition get under your skin, but remember God doesn’t need us to defend Him. He is Lord of All whether all acknowledge Him or not. And if we don’t put ourselves at the table, our loved ones may never be exposed to Him—to a different way of living, thinking, loving and believing.
Preserve the Easter Bunny. By that I mean, let’s accept unbelievers where they are. For some people, the whole point of Easter is the bunny, the candy, the rainbow baskets and egg hunts. Those activities are not my main focus, but they might be precious to my five-year-old nephew. In which case, telling him the Easter Bunny is a big fake is certainly not going to convert him and, worse, it will only harm my relationship with him and his mother. That’s a problem because when we’re talking about building a bridge to unbelievers, relationships should be our goal. Without them, we destroy our witness and defeat the whole purpose of loving unbelievers on Easter or any other day of the year.
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:5–6)
Love them anyway. No matter what our loved ones believe, no matter how much their faithlessness may pain us, and no matter how many times we feel we have failed at sharing the gospel within our closest circles of influence, love them anyway. Jesus does. So we ought to figure out a way to view them through God’s eyes. Pray for them. Pass the ham and the hugs alike. We were called to love our friends and those who are less friendly. It’s what shows the world we are Christians. So let’s start this Easter by not just surviving those mixed company celebrations, but thriving within them—in God’s strength, and for His glory.
Becky Kopitzke is the author of “The SuperMom Myth: Conquering the Dirty Villains of Motherhood” and “Generous Love: Discover the Joy of Living ‘Others First’. Becky lives in lovely northeast Wisconsin with her husband and their two daughters, where her home office is overrun with bouncy balls and tween craft supplies. For weekly, keeping-it-real encouragement, visit Becky at beckykopitzke.com.