A few months after I gave my life to Christ, at the age of eighteen, I ﬂew out to Arizona to spend some time with my older sister and her boyfriend, who happened to be Jewish. I knew they were dating seriously and were talking about marriage, so I viewed this opportunity as a divinely appointed moment to convert him.
The ﬁrst night, after a delightful evening meal at their favorite Mexican restaurant, we went back to the house and watched basketball. Midway through the fourth quarter I realized it was getting late, and since I didn’t have long to spend with them, I awkwardly leaned over and told him that I’d love to talk to him about his religious beliefs.
He told me he was Jewish, and I told him he was going to hell.
Then we argued for six straight hours.
We fought (or more accurately, I fought with him) from ten o’clock that night until four o’clock the next morning. It got so bad that around two o’clock we got into the car and drove around for a few hours, meandering through the streets of Tucson as I volleyed argument after argument at him about why he needed to become a Christian.
Then at four in the morning, right in the middle of all of my seemingly airtight arguments for the deity of Jesus, the infallibility of the Bible, and the reality of hell, he asked me a simple question.
“Brian, if what you believe is true, why do you treat your sister so poorly?”
“What do you mean?” I sheepishly asked, as a lump slowly formed in my throat.
“You never call her,” he said. “You’re always in a rush. I mean, she ﬂies you out to spend the weekend with her, and you’ve been ﬁghting with me for the last six out of the nine hours you’ve been here. Brian, I don’t know much about Christianity, but if what you’re saying is true, then I would have thought that I’d see a change in the way you treat her.”
He was absolutely right.
I was an idiot—a well-meaning, misguided idiot—but an idiot nonetheless. And rather than spending time with my sister, I unleashed my “shock and awe” evangelistic barrage on my future brother-in-law. And all of this came from someone who had been a Christian for a total of two months.
“You’re right,” I said. “I’m sorry.”
On the way back to my sister’s apartment, I sat in the passenger’s seat, silently reeling from the emotional aftermath of my six-hour tirade. Then a random thought occurred to me—I didn’t even know his parents’ names. I never once asked him a question about his business.
I didn’t know about his plans for the future. Not once did I ask him about his relationship with my sister, their plans for having children, or what he liked to do in his spare time.
I didn’t know any of that about him, yet I presumed I could ﬂy in, dump a load of Jesus talk on him, and expect him to change the twenty-six-year trajectory of his entire life after one discussion with me.
If I had just shut up and listened, I would have discovered that he was an amazing, caring, and funny person. But I didn’t. I came on conversationally as if the Hoover Dam had exploded.
If I had taken the time over that weekend to learn a couple of things about someone my sister obviously cared about, then maybe a year or two later God might have opened a door for me to have a serious conversation with him about his faith. By that time, maybe I would have gained enough credibility with him that he would have opened up to me.
But I didn’t do that.
I felt as if I had completely burned that bridge.
By the grace of God, he did eventually come to faith, some twenty years later, but not as a result of my inﬂuence. He came to Christ in spite of me. And just to give you an indication of the kind of brother-in-law I have now, he’s never brought that incident up. Not once.
At least one of us knows how to be Christ-like.
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