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Inviting Unbelieving Family Members to Your Sabbath Meal

Jeff:
This question comes from Maggie in our homeroom community. She said, “Do you do anything differently when you invite unbelieving family members to be part of your Shabbat or Sabbath meal on occasion? Do you do different explanations, or do you just allow your regular routine to be a witness to them?”

Now, Jeremy, I’m interested to hear what you think. For us, I think this is a thing that actually not just on Sabbath, but I’m always … How do I say this? I’m very sensitive to how other people are feeling, specifically around religious language, tradition, the gospel, all these different things. One tool that I think is very helpful is just be honest and like disarm them. Right? And then I think what that does is that actually frees you up then to be more honest, or to do more kind of unashamedly what you want to do.

I got in trouble from a couple of commenters the other day, because I gave away a free book and a $20 bill and wrote a letter in it, and I just set it somewhere in like a mall. I just said whoever picks this up, I want this to be for you. I want it to encourage you. Blah, blah, blah. But one little line in there, I said, “Hey, there’s a lot of Jesus stuff in here,” and I said, “If that makes you feel weird, then just skip past that. I think you’ll still get some encouragement from the other stuff.”

And some people were like, why would you say that? You don’t want them to skip over that. They need to know. And I’m like, yes, I agree, but there’s something about alleviating people’s fears and disarming them that actually makes them hear you better anyways.

Jeremy:
That’s right.

Jeff:
Right?

Jeremy:
Yeah.

Jeff:
Or, that even that comment in the letter might make them go, Oh, well who is this Jesus guy? You know what I mean?

Jeremy:
Right.

Jeff:
I think there’s something about disarming that’s really, really powerful. Back to the specific question, we do that on Sabbath. We have a lot of people in our home sometimes for Sabbath, different kind of levels of how they’re comfortable with it. Are they aware of it? Whatever. And one thing I do is I’m just usually calling it out as it’s going, like Hey, this is going to be weird to you. Or I’m going to say, “Hey, just pay attention.” Or if it’s the song I say, “Hey, this is the fun song we sing. You probably don’t need to know the words. Just bang on the table, and you’ll probably fit right in.”

I just kind of make it fun and disarm-

Jeremy:
Right.

Jeff:
… and lighthearted like that.

Jeremy:
Yes.

Jeff:
And to me, then it just moves on. And what it does then too, is it then also comes back to us and enables us to then be free in it.

Jeremy:
Yeah.

Jeff:
Because then what happens if you’re not communicating well, then you start to hide or get sheepish or whatever. When it’s just like, I literally just said, “Hey, we do a couple of rituals before we get started. These might seem weird. We’d love for you to help. You can bang on the table. You can repeat after me. You can do all this, or you can watch, and here we go.” Right? Stuff like that. I just think you just be honest, and just talk normal and be normal, and things usually go normal.

Jeremy:
Yes.

Jeff:
Yeah. I don’t know. Jeremy, what would you say?

Jeremy:
Yeah. Don’t suddenly start praying with these and thous, or suddenly break into some kind of religious-

Jeff:
Yeah.

Jeremy:
A lot of times we don’t know how to just be at home. I just wrote about this.

Jeff:
Totally.

Jeremy:
If you guys are subscribed to the Jeremy’s Journal, the Family Team’s email newsletter I shoot at every week, I talked about one of the coolest invitations I ever got in my life when I was 23 was to a Sabbath dinner, when I was living in Jerusalem. And it was happening repeatedly. I was being invited to people’s houses. And what’s really cool about these kinds of observances is oftentimes people, they’re just kind of curious about how do you do things.

Jeff:
Yeah.

Jeremy:
What you can’t do is … With family, there can be a little bit of like you guys actually should be doing this, or there’s just really subtle little messages that we think we figured out better ways, or … That’s I think where this can get really tough-

Jeff:
Yeah.

Jeremy:
… for unbelieving family members, is if it ever feels preachy, if it ever feels kind of like you’re coming down on them. So you have to really ramp up the sort of vibe that Hey, we just want to share this thing with you guys we’re doing.

Jeff:
Yeah.

Jeremy:
And it’s not exclusive, and we’re trying to just sweep people into it, make it really simple, do a really good job explaining things. My wife April is incredible. When we have any of our Shabbat dinners, we have people that are new. She’ll stop me routinely, like okay, what Jeremy means by that is …

Jeff:
Yeah.

Jeremy:
Because I can be a little bit insensitive to this topic, and I think me and April make a really good team, because she’s much more. And she has my permission to stop me, pause, help me, help us make this an experience that everyone feels like they’re a part of.

Yeah, I know this can be really tough. I know there’s so many details to a lot of situations. You might get frustration, or anger even, from unbelieving family members, like do you think you’re better than us or whatever. Some of those things are stirred up just because this is different, or whatever. We just want to make sure we’re not contributing to that. Don’t blame yourself if that starts to happen. Sometimes that’s stuff that they’re really wrestling with, but oftentimes we’ve found that there’s a tone you can strike, especially over time, where extended family starts to feel like I really like this. I love it when you invite me over to Shabbat. I appreciate the meaning behind it, and I get to hear and understand a little bit more about your faith or about the gospel every time.

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