I didn’t grow up in a Christian family, but at a church camp the summer before middle school, I was introduced to Jesus for the first time.
When I heard the Gospel, I almost instantaneously understood my need for Jesus. I wanted to know God, I wanted Him in my heart and so I invited Him into my life by the end of that week.
That week and many others since, I was surrounded with fellow believers, very much feeling the community inherent in the Body of Christ. But it felt different when I got home from camp and realized my parents didn’t have a relationship with Jesus.
In the weeks, months and years after making the decision to follow Christ, being the only Christian in my family has caused me to question, wonder, cry, fear, worry and suffer. The moments where I’m the only one getting up on Sundays and going to church, or the moments when I’m reminded I’m the only one that reads the Bible in the house can feel incredibly lonely. However, God has used these times, these moments, to shape me into the person I am today.
Maybe it’s not in our family, but at some point or another, all of us find ourselves in situations where we are the only Christ-followers in a group of people living life apart from Jesus. It may be in the workplace, at school, the family you marry into, a group of friends or even just a situation you find yourself in.
Our perspective is what matters most when we find ourselves in these contexts. There are many things to keep in mind as a Christian in an environment of unbelievers, but these three things will give you freedom and comfort as you walk the narrow road:
You are not entitled to a Christ-loving home/workplace/environment
For the first three years of being a Christian in a household of unbelievers, I felt sorry for myself and often felt entitled to harboring frustration and bitterness against my family because they didn’t know God and I didn’t have someone to spiritually lead me in my life.
Sometimes we feel as though we are owed an easy walk with God. We feel entitled to smoothly walk in the process of getting to know who He is and getting to know who we are in light of this new relationship. But it’s important to realize that we aren’t deserving of anything, especially of being completely surrounded by Christians.
In fact, being completely surrounded by other believers wouldn’t necessarily be healthy. Yes, God is for families and communities of faith, but we cannot miss the incredibly difficult yet miraculous reality of a believer in a room of unbelievers. The opportunities to love others with God’s love are endless; the opportunities to share the Gospel are innumerable, whether by your words or by your actions.
We need to make the most of where Jesus has placed us in our lives. It is crucial to realize how intentional His plan is for you and that through Him, you have more influence than you realize. Ask the Lord for direction as you build and form relationships with unbelievers, and be ready for God to use you to share His truth with them. Backlash is expected, intolerance as well, but the greatest gift you could ever give your peers is sharing the Gospel.
You are part of God’s family
Being the only Christian in a group can feel lonely, but it’s important to keep sight of the bigger picture. When you become a Christian, you are adopted into God’s family and made an heir with Christ. Every believer is a brother or sister in Christ and in being so there is a longstanding, unbreakable unity that lies within the relationship.
In God’s family, we are here for each other, we are called to bear one another’s burdens, to encourage one another, to teach, correct and love one another. This is a family you can lean on and invest in because it is an investment that is being made eternal.
Through the years there have been many Christ-loving families and peers that have surrounded me and are individuals I can lean on and rejoice with and be encouraged by who are there for me and have continued to point me to Jesus. Of course, I have not forgotten about my earthly family—I still need my mom and dad and they are pivotal individuals in my life. Remembering our identity in the family of the Church doesn’t mean we abandon our relationships with unbelievers, but it can ground us and give us a place to find some of the earthly community we desire.
Don’t hesitate to reach out when the place you are called to doesn’t always provide the support and wisdom you need, there are many people to learn from and receive guidance and comfort from in the family of God.
Changing hearts is God’s job, not yours
This is the most important piece of the puzzle. Even as you seek to share the Gospel with those around you, you must remember that Christ dwells in you, therefore you are set free and you have overcome with Him.
In Romans 8:37, Paul states, “Overwhelming victory is ours, In Christ, who loved us.” In this, we are able to recognize that Christ already has the victory. No matter what your circumstance, no matter what family you were born into or environment you do life in, Christ already has victory in these relationships and areas of life. He is the author and perfecter, not you.
For years I tried playing God. For years I was anxious and frustrated that my parents hadn’t yet gotten saved, but God has reminded me again and again of what it says in 1 Corinthians 3:7, “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”
Apart from Jesus we can do nothing, but in partnering with Him anything is possible. Pray for your family and peers, share the Gospel and the Bible with them, but remember it is God who is working all things together, not you. Let this reality give you peace and rest because the weight of their salvation is not on your shoulders, it’s on God’s.
Corinne, from Portland, Oregon, is currently a missionary in the Dominican Republic. Check out her website, corinnecarver.co as well as her business LittleFlockDesigns. You can find her on Twitter @corinnemcarver and Instagram under the username corinnecarver.