You’ve probably heard it said, “You can choose your friends, but not your relatives!” Maybe that’s why some families have a difficult time when they gather together. Grudges, feuds, misunderstandings, and long memories are fertile ground for family strife, and yet everyone is expected to show up with a smile.  

As Christians we’re asked to love people regardless of what’s happened or how we’ve been treated in the past. In 1 John 4:7 it says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Strong words! But do we have to apply them to our impossible-to-get-along-with relatives?

Yes, we do, even though embracing the love of Jesus doesn’t automatically make for warm, fuzzy feelings toward the people who’ve hurt us in the past.

So what are we to do? Here are five suggestions: 

1. Pray beforehand, asking God for help you truly love others.

2.  Ask God to make you aware of your part in any conflict, and then ask for His forgiveness.

3.  Approach people with a warm smile and say something that shows genuine interest in them.

4.  Connect with God as you talk, asking Him for wisdom in what to say and how to act.

5.  Be positive and upbeat, natural and low-key. Keep all hint of gossip or slander out of your conversations.

“Finally, all of you should be on one mind, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate when people say unkind things about you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God wants you to do, and he will bless you for it” (1 Peter 3:8-9 NLT).

Family gatherings will take on a whole new flavor if we determine to reflect the love of Christ. So relax. Enjoy. And may all your relatives become dear friends!