I’ve been thinking about gain and loss today. I’ve been reading about persecution around the world. It’s one thing to choose to follow Jesus in a culture where family, friends and colleagues are also believers, or there are, at least, no serious consequences. It is quite another thing when choosing to be a disciple of Christ means rejection by beloved parents, brothers, sisters and community. In places where not having a seat at the table is the result of shame dumped on a new Christian, choosing to walk a lonely path requires a courage few of us can raise on our own.
More than once I have spoken to sincere seekers who faced a hard choice.
“I want to leave my guilt and shame behind and believe in Jesus,” one young woman told me, “But I couldn’t hurt my father that way. It would disappoint him so much.”
“It would break my mother’s heart,” said another with tears in his eyes.
I don’t know what they decided.
A man I met in the U.K. in a class we both took told me, “My family said I brought dishonour upon them by my choice to become a Christian. They have tried to kill me more than once. My own mother fed me poison,” he said, his voice growing softer. “I know they will try to kill me again if I go back to my home country, but they need to know God loves them. Jesus died and overcame death to show them that he is not angry with them. I can’t turn back. Jesus loves me. I am his servant. Whatever it takes…”
What struck me was that none of these dear ones were rebellious by nature, nor were they angry with their families. In fact, they were the opposite. They cared deeply about loved ones. The issue they all wrestled with was the question of how to love God first, then others. Sometimes I feel like avoiding relatives who merely disapprove of my fashion choices and taste in music. Would I be willing to be misunderstood, to be disinherited, to lose everything and everyone dear to me to love them with the love of the Lord?
That kind of love, that kind of faith, can only come as a gift of empowering grace from the One who sees the beginning from the end. How I admire those with the determination to hold tightly to the Saviour and find their true home in the family of God.
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29 NASB)
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we celebrate in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1,2 NASB)