For many generations a convert to Christianity in the West (Europe & America) did not have to sacrifice much. The reason was Western Christendom. Most of society was built on Christian laws and operated under a Christian ethic. If someone went to a revival meeting and got saved they went out into a world, that for the most part, approved of their conversion and the actions that flowed from it. If a preacher called a man to come to Christ, that repentance rarely meant that the man would lose his family or job for believing in Jesus.
In the coming years this will change. Conversion to Christ in the West will require more sacrifice. In particular, we will find families divided. There will be other types of loss, such as jobs and money, but nothing compares to being rejected by our family. Losing family is a deep wound. New Christians will no longer find themselves in a world that basically approves of them and their actions. Instead they will find themselves in the position of many Muslims who when they choose Christ lose all. Two Muslim brothers who came to Jesus described it this way:
Faith [in Jesus] often means the total rejection of culture, ethnicity, family, and friends. To find heaven’s glory in Jesus Christ, we Caner brothers lost our father. (Islam Unveiled)
Another example is Rosaria Butterfield who was a lesbian professor at a major university when she came to Jesus. In the account of her conversion she notes that not only did she lose her friends, they felt betrayed by her. They put their trust in her. They counted on her to support them. When she came to Christ, they felt like she had stabbed them in the back. While this was not her biological family, the bonds she felt with these people were as strong as natural family bonds.
Stories like these will become more common as the years progress. We will hear of sons being rejected by fathers and fathers rejected by sons. We will hear of children raised in homosexual homes converting to Christ and being rejected by their parents. We will hear of daughters being kicked out of homes for their faith in Christ. We will hear of Muslims rejecting family members for conversion, not in the Middle East, but here in America. We will hear of close knit groups who hate a member for leaving them and following Jesus. The possibilities are endless, but the probability of families, biological or otherwise, being divided by Christ is high.
How can the church prepare for this?
First, we must remind ourselves and tell those we evangelize that Jesus demands absolute loyalty. Family is not the highest good. Jesus is. You can gain your family and lose Jesus. You can hold to all sorts of wonderful family values, like the Mormons and the Muslims, and still burn in Hell. Jesus came to separate.
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:34-38)
Family is important, but it does not trump Jesus Christ. If we give the impression that family is more important than Jesus people will not make the choice to follow Jesus with their whole heart. They will be divided. We must declare without apology, that if the choice is Jesus or family, Jesus must win.
Second, our churches must be a places where broken families come to be integrated into God’s eternal family of brothers and sisters. Single mothers, divorced folks, people recovering from sodomy and abortion, the abused, the abuser, etc. when they trust in Christ and are baptized should find a place in our churches to serve and grow. Widows must be cared for and orphans must be adopted. If our churches cannot or will not bring in these people then we are saying biological family trumps God’s family. That is a grievous sin and shows disloyalty to Jesus. Teaching this is not enough. Somehow, and it is not easy, we must create a tone, an atmosphere where broken families are welcome. Perhaps most important is to remember that we were broken (Titus 3:3) and outside of God’s family (Ephesians 4:14-22), but God in his mercy has adopted us and saved us.
Third, we must maintain strong families, but not idolize them. A good Biblical home is a wonderful witness of God’s grace to the watching world. We should teach and model what a good wife and husband looks like. We should teach parents to raise their children in the discipline and admonition of the Lord. We should encourage our young people to get married and have lots of children. But all of this must be done, not as an end to itself, but as a way to glorified God and build his kingdom. If we build the family for the sake of the family then we have made the family an idol. And God destroys idols. But if we build our families so they might serve and build the church, including those who do not have families, then we are reflecting Biblical priorities.
Fourth, we should be grateful for the good relationships we have with non-Christian family members. For many, even though their family is not worshiping Jesus, they can still be friends. Of course, there is always a divide. No matter how much we love our family, if they do not trust in Christ there is chasm that cannot be crossed until they believe. But God is kind. He gives common grace so we can enjoy their company and they our’s despite their lack of faith.
Finally, we should be thankful when our biological family is Christian. My whole family believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. He could have made me choose between Christ and my family as many Christians around the world have done. But he didn’t. God in his mercy has made my temporary, biological family part of my eternal, spiritual family. The only proper response to this astonishing fact is gratitude.