Some Christ followers are blessed with the support of their families, many are not. I don’t have the ‘stats’ on the matter, but have gleaned anecdotal evidence through my lifetime of wives with unbelieving husbands, husbands with unbelieving wives, parents with unbelieving children, children with unbelieving parents. Many have experienced the rejection of their family of origin when they became part of the family of God.
Take for example a former fellow Seminary student. He confessed faith in Christ, went home and was told by his parents that he was no longer their son. They even held a ‘funeral’ for him at their place of worship, officially severing any remembrance of their blood relationship. I listened attentively yesterday, as a pastoral colleague shared the heart-wrenching story of imprisonment, beatings and ultimate displacement of an entire family who have just recently been sponsored as refugees and now reside in Canada.
“And they all lived happily ever after…” This might be a typical fairy-tale ending, but reality does not reflect such idyllic endings. Jesus experienced outright rejection, even by his immediate family. Recall Mark 3:21 “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Was even Mary, the mother of Jesus, swayed in her assessment of the Son of God? (Not sure I’ve ever heard a sermon on that text!) Or later in the same account as the message is communicated to him that his mother and brothers were outside of the house, Jesus drew a huge distinction between those related by blood and disciples–doers of God’s will–whom He spoke of as “my brother and sister and mother.”
Part of the anticipated persecution spoken of in Mark 13 by Christ, may well include family rejection. Those of us blessed with Christian parents, and many in our extended family who trust Christ don’t read this text from the perspective of having been persecuted.
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Mark 13:12-13)
I listen to Focus on the Family broadcasts and podcasts some times. I’ve heard a multitude of sermons on marriage and family matters–I’ve even preached them. My library has a significant number of resources reflecting the value of a Christian home. But who’s writing for the persecuted? Who’s there to stand with the teenage daughter of a family who have disowned her? Who prays with the woman who returns after the church service to her home to face more ridicule?
What can we do?
1) We can commit to pray for broken lives.
2) Where possible we can sponsor, through gospel-centred organizations, missionaries who serve in ‘restricted access’ countries.
3) We can reject ‘formulaic’ books and teaching. What do I mean by this? If you do _______ and do ________ your entire family will become solid Christ followers. The reality is not that simple. The world is filled with brokenness. The ‘cost’ of following Jesus may well be reflected in the words of the song, penned in India many years ago. “Though none go with me, still I will follow….No turning back, No turning back.” The writer of those words stood firm to the end despite the intense physical, mental and emotional torment he suffered for his faith in Jesus, who Himself suffered at the hands of wicked men. Perhaps this week’s memory verses should be 2 Timothy 3:12-13 “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”