Jump Start # 2145
Luke 21:16 “but you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all on account of My name.”
Our passage today is not one that we hear preached often. It doesn’t fit in well with the theology of everyone living happily ever after. I expect it struck the first people who heard this with shock and horror. Their own family would turn against them. They would be hated by everyone. They would be killed. Those words would be enough for some then and many today to walk away from Jesus. What’s the point, if this is what will happen. Nothing is more important than family, is how some see life.
Many fields of study, such as medicine and law have what we call “pre” courses. Pre-med, pre-law, is what we hear a young university student saying. The “pre” part is often as far as some get. They change their minds. It’s not what they thought it would be. For others, the “pre” part eliminates them because they just can’t get the grades necessary to move on. In some ways, this is what Jesus’ words were doing. It was going to eliminate those who were curious, but not committed. It would remove those who were there for the show, the free food, and to be with the crowds. Things were going to get much worse as time went on.
Now, in all of this, there are some lessons for us.
First, often our very family does not understand what we believe and why we believe it. There can be constant friction between family members about attending services so often, not engaging in things that they want to do, such as drinking alcohol, and gossiping about others. Family reunions and holiday times can be stressful and strained because of the pressures to go along with the rest of the family.
Here are a few things that can try your patience and stretch your limits as to what you should do:
Family weddings: someone in the family is getting married for the third or fourth time. They shouldn’t be getting married, but they are and you’re invited. Or, there is a homosexual wedding in the family. Everyone is going to be there. You’re expected to be there as well.
Family business practices: there are some under the table, not so ethical things going on and you are to be a part of that. Not only is it the family business, but it’s your job and your income.
Family gatherings that involve toasting a drink of alcohol, witnessing a baby being baptized, or going to see a young family member play in a church band. All of these things fly in the opposite direction of what you believe. Do you go and just not say anything? Do you bring up your opposition which leads to everyone ganging up on you and attacking you? Do you simply not go, which brings the same results? Do you come up with a lame excuse and hope that passes the judgmental eyes?
Those of us that have just about everyone in the faith do not experience nor understand how hard every day things can be from your own family.
Second, from our passage, often it’s our very family that turns on us. It’s hard for us to imagine parents being so upset and angry with the faith of their children that they would turn them into authorities, knowing that they may very well be put to death. The Christians were good people. They are nice. They are kind. They are forgiving. They are generous and helpful. They are not a threat to anyone. Yet, there was such a hatred for Jesus, anyone connected to Jesus, was hated. Even among family members.
Some of the worst things said and some of the greatest pressures we experience come from family members who do not hold anything back. All kindness is gone. The questions are harsh. The criticism is often not accurate, yet intended to be hurtful and cruel. Ridicule, false statements, repeated arguments that they have picked up from others, are all used to pressure you to be like everyone else. “Do you think we are all going to Hell?” is asked repeatedly in front of others. They stare and wait for your response. They may pick apart your life and point out mistakes and sins in your life to show that you are not any different than they are. It can get very mean and nasty. It can get to the point that you are not welcomed, invited, included. It can get to the point that you are asked to leave. It can get to the point that you are cut out of the family will. Things can be done to hurt your feelings. Things can be done that are cruel.
Thirdly, all of this are means to test our faith, and all of this has Satan behind it. A study of Revelation reveals that Satan could not alter the plans of Heaven. He then set his eyes upon the people of God. If he could keep Heaven empty, God would be alone. His attacks are upon those who keep the testimony of Jesus. He will not go by the rules, we do and we must. He will use anything and anyone, including those very close to our hearts. He will discourage, confuse and twist things in our minds to deceive us and get us to not follow Christ. He will offer alternatives that seem very close, but are not the same. It’s like “knock-offs.” I walked by a guy selling “knock-off” purses. Name brands, but you know they were imitations. They weren’t the real thing. Satan does that with us. Imitation religion. Imitation faith. Imitation church. Close, so close, it fools most eyes. But those who really know, see the differences. It’s not the same. It’s only an attempt to get us away from Jesus.
The testing of your faith. Is your faith greater than your family? Is you faith strong enough to withstand opposition? Is your faith able to stand on it’s own? Can you keep your faith when others around you do not agree with you? Can you keep your faith when others are inviting you to join them in things you know are not right?
Remember back in school, some tests were pretty easy. Some, especially the multiple choices, when only one answer could be right, were really tough. You could narrow the choices down to two, but which one. That’s hard. That’s the way tests can be. It can be that way to our faith.
This is why the more Bible you have in you, the easier it is to take those tests and to know just what we ought to do and to face the consequences of those who do not believe as you do. You stand with the three Jewish teens who would not bow down to Babylon’s idol. You stand with the aged Daniel who continued to pray when he was told not to. You stand with Moses’ who was not afraid to choose God’s people over Pharaoh’s family. You stand with Peter when released from prison, declared that he could not stop speaking about Jesus. You stand with those early saints who suffered and gave their lives because they believed in Jesus more than anything else. They understood that their faith was greater than their lives. Death is not the worst thing that can happen. It’s being thrown into eternity alone and without Christ. Nothing is worth that, nor can be worse than that.
Family. You gotta love ‘em, but it sure can be hard. We don’t pick our family. They can be our greatest support and help or they can be the very thing that trips us and keeps us from succeeding with the Lord.
Jesus or family? It’s sad that it often has to be that way, but there it is. Who will you stand with? Who will save you in the end? Who is always right? Who died for you? If you had to choose Jesus or family, who would you stand with? For some, this is life every day. It’s hard. It brings tears to your eyes. Why won’t the family give me a chance? Why won’t they see the goodness of my faith? Why are they pressuring me to change?
Hang in there. God is with you. Be kind. Be thoughtful. But, be with Jesus.