Thanksgiving is a time when families come together, sharing food and happy memories. It can also be a time that highlights differences between family members, which has the potential to cause tension or even great division.
Situations involving a family member’s relationship can be especially fraught. If you have family members who are in relationships that run contrary to your faith, how can you show them your love without seeming to endorse their relationship?
This was the question posed by a listener recently on The Patrick Madrid Show. The listener’s son divorced years ago, did not seek an annulment of his first marriage, and recently moved in with his new fiancee. The son extended an invitation to Thanksgiving at his home, and the listener asked Patrick if going to their home for the holiday would be an implicit endorsement of their living situation.
Patrick responded, “I’m not saying this flippantly, but they are not going to be committing the sin of fornication while you’re there. You’re there in their home, sharing a meal, doing something good, keeping the lines of communication open. And by sharing a meal with them, there is no actual endorsement of any other sin that they may be committing. That’s how I look at this.”
While there are some instances in which one’s presence implies approval, Patrick did not view an invitation to Thanksgiving as one of those situations.
“If they were asking you to come to their housewarming party, for example, if they said, ‘Hey, we’re moving in together and having a housewarming party.’ Then I would say I’m not going to do that,” he clarified. “Because that would be an overt way of approving of (or seeming to approve of) something that is wrong. But to have a meal? I think I would go and try to do some good if I could.”
For those who may fear that such an action would be caving in to a morally lax, relativistic culture, Patrick pointed out that Catholics for ages have faced similar situations.
“Here’s a parting thought to think about,” he told the listener. “Let’s think for a moment about the North American Martyrs. They went to what is now southern Canada/northern New York state. And they went to a culture where they had multiple wives, they practiced all kinds of things that we would never condone, including torture and human sacrifice. They went and lived with these people. They learned their language, ate their food, lived among them as a way to win them over for Jesus.”
“And this, in a way, kind of reminds me of that kind of thing, but in a different situation. You’re almost like a missionary going into a mission field. These are people who are welcoming you in, they are willing to have table fellowship with you, they obviously like you. So you are in a perfect position to be able to evangelize them.”
While one Thanksgiving dinner is probably not going to be a life-changing moment one way or the other, it is important that if we seek to bring others to Jesus we show them love and respect, despite our disagreements.
“Certainly it’s not going to take place all at once,” Patrick acknowledged. “But if you can start building this connection with them, and over time they come to admire you and trust your wisdom, I have a feeling that good things can come from this. But if you say, ‘No, sorry. We’re not going to come over because you’re living together.’ I have a feeling they might just say, ‘OK, enough with them’ and move on.”
Listen to the full conversation below: