In-Laws Who Are Hostile To Christianity

The question below concerning in laws being hostile is answered by Dr. Jay Kesler:

Dollar photo senior couple at homeQUESTION:

My wife had a wonderful relationship with her mother all the years she was growing up. That is, until my wife became a Christian. Now her parents are openly hostile toward us, and communication is virtually impossible. Even though we love her family and continue to get together with them, my wife is really distressed over the fracture in this relationship. What can we do?


Most likely one of two things is going on in your fractured relationship. The first is referred to in the New Testament as “the offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:11). Your wife’s parents may fear Christian faith because of the implications it has for their own lives. They might be resisting Christianity because they don’t want to change their behaviors and lifestyle.

But it’s more common for people to react negatively due to a false understanding of Jesus Christ and Christianity. Your in-laws appear to be hostile to the Christian faith, but their definition of Christianity may have been twisted by unfortunate experiences with people who claimed to be Christians but whose actions were repugnant.

A man once accosted me after a church service to announce, “I don’t believe in God, and I hate churches.” I said, “Tell me what God you don’t believe in. Maybe I don’t believe in Him either.” The man described his mother’s family, who had all participated in a backwoods folk religion full of contradictions, legalisms and heresies. “If Christianity were presented to me on that level, I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole!” I told him. “But do you have the time, the energy, and the honesty to really examine the New Testament?”

We spent a couple of hours together and parted amicably. This man wasn’t fighting against God, but against a caricature of Him.

Hostility to Christianity

When it comes to talking about Christianity with a person who is fighting against a warped idea of our faith, it’s like trying to untangle a big knot by pulling on one end of the string. The more you try —especially by arguing or defending —the tighter the knot gets. The only way to untangle the knot is with authenticity.

Your life will have to show the difference between genuine Christianity and your in-laws’ false understanding of it. It sounds as if you and your wife are already on the right track. You continue to love her parents and get together with them.

There comes a time, especially in family relationships, to quit talking about one’s Christianity and just live it. Then let the Holy Spirit do His work. Over time, the quality of your lives will have an effect on your in-laws.

Perhaps they’ll find themselves saying, “Well, I can’t stand religious people. But my daughter is a Christian, and she really is a lovely person and a wonderful daughter. She’s an exception to the rule.”

Sooner or later, they may realize there could be many such “exceptions” and that their analysis of Christianity has been unfair.

This article appeared in the book, The Healthy Marriage Handbook, published by Broadman & Holman Publishers. In this insightful book you’ll find more than 200 confidential, personal questions that real people asked the editors of Marriage Partnership. “It’s almost like having a trusted, wise couple come alongside to help you clear the hurdles husbands and wives encounter. This advice is offered with compassion and understanding. And most importantly, it’s based on the counsel of God’s Word, the Bible.”

Jay Kessler is the former president of Taylor University, former president of Youth for Christ, author of 23 books.

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Filed under: Dealing with In Laws & Parents

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3 responses to “In-Laws Who Are Hostile To Christianity

  1. I have been with my husband 8 years and we have 3 children. Early in our relationship we had a lot of serious trouble with lies and infidelity and lack of boundaries on his end. He would lie even about small things just to avoid conflict, so it became impossible for me to trust him. We worked on this extensively… painfully… prayerfully… and a few years ago we finally arrived at a good place in our lives where we are happy and I don’t feel scared of what crazy thing will happen next.

    Since I met my husband, I’ve had a pretty good relationship with his family and have helped them a lot, although I do think they also have some poor boundaries in their own relationships and that has caused them serious damage – divorces, children outside of their marriages, general unhappiness. Despite that, I thought I had a pretty good relationship with my sister-in-law and her adult children. Then, about 2 years ago, my sister-in-law decided to strike up a relationship with one of my husband’s ex-girlfriends, even though she only met the girl once over a decade before. She proceeded to become best friends with this girl. Meanwhile, my SIL started becoming distant with me and showed up for things to which she was invited less and less. She also invited my husband to her birthday celebration without me. At the time, I thought it was odd, but I dismissed it as maybe an oversight and her being busy. After all, she’s my SIL. Then I wanted to go to my husband’s grandmother’s birthday celebration overseas but my husband said we didn’t have money to go. He didn’t tell me his sister was going, which he did know. I later saw photos of the party and my SIL was there with my husband’s ex. Like, the ex actually bought plane tickets overseas to see MY husband’s grandma, who had never even heard of this girl.

    She stayed in my mother-in-law’s house (which is small, so the ex would have had to sleep in my husband’s childhood bed looking at his childhood photos and MY wedding photos and photos of my kids, which I think is pretty intimate). The ex was introduced to and hung out with my mother-in-law, grandmother-in-law, uncles, aunts, cousins, and other extended family. There were photos of the ex kissing my MIL and other in-laws. This really upset me and my husband and I went to my SIL to let her know. She basically said that she can do what she wants. For the sake of the family, I tried to work around this and continued to invite her to events at our home, but she showed up probably 4 times in 2 years. This past Easter, we invited her and her kids over and she refused to come. She had a gathering at her house the same day that we weren’t invited to. Shortly thereafter, there was a huge event for her daughter. Her daughter had been asking my husband and I to clear our schedules for 2 years to attend this event. A few weeks prior, the daughter told me to get ready for the event. At the last minute, my SIL informed my husband that there was only room for him at the event and not for me. I told my husband to go anyway b/c it was so important to his niece. As my husband drove to the event, my SIL called to ask if I was with him. Of course I was not since I was un-invited. When he arrived (after a 4 hour drive) the ex was there. This was the last straw and after coming home and talking to me about, he called to tell his sister that this needed to stop and she is disrespecting our family and in doing so disrespecting HIM.

    She basically still didn’t care and he told her then we have no way forward. His father (twice divorced) then started calling and telling him to pick his sister over us and that my husband should use our family’s money to go on vacation with his sister to get closer to her (we haven’t even been on vacation in 3 years). His mother and grandmother did the same and in fact my MIL is hosting the ex again this year for grandma’s birthday so my family can’t go. My husband is totally heartbroken over this. He does have some cousins and uncles who are supportive of him in this, but the fact that his family of origin has turned their backs on him and his family and children to support a stranger, who none of them had even met before my SIL brought her around, has really shaken him to the core. I’ve been praying about this, but I don’t know what to do. I feel so bad that he basically feels abandoned by his family because he chose to protect ours. My family of origin was shocked by all of this. They support my husband as if he was born into the family and have never even brought up my exes, let alone brought any of them around. The strangest thing is that this ex of his had zero ties to his family. It’s not as if they are just maintaining a previous relationship with my husband’s ex. The woman literally met my SIL once for a day 12 or 13 years ago and was not introduced to any of his other family by him ever. Then 5 years after my husband and I were married this woman sought out my husband repeatedly and then when he cut off contact because she was too friendly, the woman all of a sudden becomes 1 of only 2 people my SIL hangs out with all the time and starts pushing her way into our family. This is all really troubling me. All of a sudden, we’ve basically lost a big portion of our family. I don’t understand how anyone would choose some random person over their only sibling and his family. Is there anything we can do?

    1. Tammy, I am proud of your husband for choosing wisely to support you instead of getting trapped in whatever mess his sister might be planning. You are married to a good man. Many years ago, I was in similar situation where I needed make some choices between my father and my wife. It took me awhile before I learned to make the good choice that your husband has made. I’m not sure that there is anything that you can actually do to resolve the issue, other than to pray that the Lord will somehow resolve it. Anything that you or your husband might try in an attempt to resolve it will likely make matters worse. That’s my two cents.

      Oh Father, I lift up Tammy and her husband to You as they are stuck in this difficult family situation. Bring them comfort and peace, knowing that You are in control. Give them the insights and wisdom that they need to interact with the family members. Bring Your hand of healing upon the situation and cause any who might have harmful intentions to stop and turn from their ways. Bring restoration and healing to all of the relationships, according to Your plan and in Your time. I ask these things in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus, Amen!!!

  2. I am a Hindu recently converted to Christianity. My Hindu husband, parents & in-laws all left me alone. Now I’m alone living in a rented house. My husband lives with his parents & is in hiding for 7 months now.He stops working & doesn’t pay maintenance for this reason. I am suffering from continuous neck & back pain for 2 1/2 yrs now. So taking even part time tuitions for toddlers is too much for me besides the fact that I’m unemployed since graduating. He hasn’t talked to me for 7 months. In fact I filed a missing complaint and found him hiding in one relative’s house of his last month. He shouted a lot saying I was a fraud, that he always struggled in our marriage etc. His parents shouted I was a dog, was looking for somebody to cheat etc. & asked me to support myself. Please pray for me.