Why is it that the holidays when families gather are often fraught with warfare? I contend, in the context of spiritual warfare, this is a front where the enemy enjoys his greatest victories against what we deeply desire to enjoy with our families. And yes, we are quick to make the agreement that family gatherings during the holidays are minefields to either carefully negotiate or avoid altogether.
Among the New Year’s desires and themes I’d like to focus on is the desire to break the above agreement and to pray early on against the enemy's assault on my family relationships. I think the weapon to disarm the various spirits Satan uses to influence family gatherings—such as envy, pride, confusion, distortion, defensiveness, misunderstanding, getting the last dig (whatever that spirit is called), and all other unnamed spirits—is to choose love and to always examine my own motives as I interact with family. I want to choose to move toward honest communication in humility. That doesn’t mean making peace at all cost, but rather offering strength in relationships the way Jesus demonstrated in dealing with the people He encountered. Even Jesus’ own family had questionable motives as they inquired about His mission, and there may be encounters with certain family members that should be wisely avoided due to their poor choices beyond our influence and control (Matthew 7:6). Yet, when we should engage, He promises that our prayers are effective against such spirits of sabotage, and His authority is available to us as His followers (Luke 10:19).
This past December, my wife and I spent Christmas with my older brother and his wife for the first time in many years. We have decades of history of not getting along, and so I have avoided holidays with them. Well, this year it could not be avoided, and we ended up staying with them for well over a week. (Pretty risky!) On the backside of those days in such close proximity, I have to say it was one of the most enjoyable Christmas holidays I can remember.
I recognized two things in my control that helped redefine my experience. First, I chose to love rather than be contentious. My initiating this caused my brother to respond in love as well. Although he and I have disagreements, the spirit of love in our communication allowed us to voice our thoughts without stepping on a mine and opening a door for warfare.
Second, my contentious nature toward my brother, at its core, is due to my own brokenness that I need to take responsibility for and disengage. As I prayerfully surrendered a lifetime of offenses from an older, stronger brother and disarmed that contention through forgiveness, I had the ability to act and engage my brother in love.
Maybe next year we will begin family gatherings praying in the spirit of what I just said! I'm tired of the enemy destroying family fellowship, and I no longer want to just agree with the lie and vow to avoid my family during future holidays. All relationships involve risk, and maybe there is some element of truth that family relationships have more risk, but choosing to love and owning my brokenness has produced—and hopefully will continue to produce, through God’s grace and power—a reward of great family time well worth the risk.