Even Jesus Anyone who watches the news can see that persecution of Christians is amping up. Between Muslim terrorist groups like ISIS, to the US Government which makes people have to choose between their job and their faith, it seems like persecution is growing. For many, being a Christian is being the minority in their family, and they face persecution from people who share their DNA -- or the marriage bed.
I did not grow up in church. I was 12 years old before I stepped foot in one. Thankfully, after accepting Christ as my Savior that same year, my family supported my decision even though they didn't help me to get to church regularly. They didn't prevent me from going, but they didn't help much either. Going to church was spotty at best.
Many people throughout the United States did not grow up in church at all. At some point, though, they are exposed to the saving grace of the Savior, and forever changed as they respond to the proddings of the Holy Spirit and accepted Christ as their Savior. Sadly, these Christians often face ridicule, if not outright persecution, from their families for their decision to follow Christ. Even more sadly, the persecution often comes from people who were reared in the church but, for whatever reason, never accepted Christ as Savior or turned back on Him.
The decision to follow the Lamb of God nets some Christians the dubious distinction of being the black sheep of their family. Jesus, too, made his own family question His sanity when He began His ministry. Mark 3:21-21 and 31-35: "Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
"Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother," [31-35].
Even Jesus had grief from His family. Yet, by the last verse in the passage above, Jesus says that when we accept Him as Savior, we are immediately ushered into the family of God. I have to say, my church family is very much that: a family. My husband and I have turned down job opportunities because that meant moving away from friends that we've had for a decade or more, and newer friends who are not related by blood.... no, scratch that: they're related to us by the Blood of the Lamb -- blood that covers sin, blood that binds human hearts into eternal friendships.
That's why it hurts us more when our biological family turns on us when we choose to accept Christ. We long for them to have the peaceful, abiding love, joy and peace that only Christ gives -- but our parents, siblings, and bless, spouses, don't accept Him. In many families, families persecute the Christian among them by making it difficult for the Christian to get to church, by mocking and ridiculing not only their faith but their God.
So, what is a Christian to do in this situation?
1. Pray. Pray. Pray. "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." -- 2 Peter 3:9
2. Respect your spouse; don't fight about faith.
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands," -- 1 Peter 3:1-6
3. Don't divorce, BUT if the unbelieving spouse leaves or wants out of the marriage (therefore divorcing YOU and not the other way around, let the spouse go.
"But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace." -- 1 Corinthians 7:15
4. Stay strong in the faith. Go to church. Stay in the Word.
"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." -- Romans 10:17
5. Expect persecution.
"Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," -- 2 Timothy 3:12
Friends, I used to be in a marriage with an unbelieving husband. The breaking point for me was when he demanded I choose him, or Jesus. I chose Jesus. No relationship on earth is worth substituting for Jesus. Jesus should be your everything, if you are a Christian. God comes first, before any earthly relationship -- especially one with an unbeliever.
I do not like divorce. I've been through it and know first hand how damaging it can be to the people involved, especially children. Yet, your relationship with God is more important than that of a degrading and hurtful spouse -- and has eternal consequences. Pray and stay in the Word, and be loving and gracious to your spouse or other family member. And keep lifting them in prayer. If you need to avoid a family member (not your spouse) because of the mocking and ill words, do so.
Society has this view of Jesus that He came to bring peace -- and for His followers, that's exactly what He brings. But He is also a dividing line. Jesus said in Matthew 10: 32-39, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law--
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.'
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it." (emphasis added).
Some might think this is harsh. But if you think that, you're looking at this with earthly, short-sighted eyes. Jesus gives the hope of heaven, the peace today, and forgiveness of the past. Why trade that for someone who mocks this?
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