Hi @dennis, thank you for this question. If I’m being honest, this is a very hard subject to reflect on…as you say, the guilt of missed conversation opportunities can feel overwhelming, and the pain from this could be terrible. I always try to remember that whilst God wants us to share the Gospel, thankfully the full responsibility does not rest on our shoulders - this lies with the work that the Holy Spirit is doing in everyone’s lives. We know that the Spirit testifies with our spirits when we are saved that we belong to God (Romans 8:16), and I believe that the Spirit is also at work in unbelievers’ lives witnessing the truth of Jesus through creation (Romans 1:19, John 16:8-14)
2 Corinthians 4:1-6 says
Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
Whether we shared a straightforward Gospel message, held in depth theological conversations, or acted out the love of Jesus through our lives without speaking a word about Jesus, it is God, who made light shine out of darkness who is sovereign overall in the lives of our family members.
1 Peter 3:15 tells us to be ready to share the hope that we hold “with anyone who asks”. What if that family member never asked about it? Should we feel a sense of responsibility or guilt then? Now, I think that it is natural to carry these burdens to some extent - that is the outworking of deeply loving other human beings and wanting them to know the joy of salvation. However, I think it’s important to be realistic about the guilt we should or shouldn’t carry. However we play our role as ambassadors of Christ, it is God moving people towards the truth in their hearts. I think God asks us to be faithful to Him as we will stand before Him one day, accounting for our obedience, but thankfully God carries the burden of salvation fully.
This may sound insufficient for such a question, but this is one of those questions where I have to hand over to God and trust that He provided every opportunity for that family member to hear the Gospel in whichever ways they needed. We could otherwise be in danger of going down some dark corridors of guilt which I don’t think are productive.
This conversation is sobering and positive for reminding us of the absolute need for preparedness in sharing the Gospel in our words and deeds. These are some thoughts - I must confess I find this hard to think about, so I hope that others may shed some encouragement and wisdom on this subject.