In His instructions to the apostles before He sends them out on mission, Jesus warns them that “Brother will deliver brother over to death and the father his child,, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my namesake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10: 21-22 ESV) Apparently, death is administered by the government and the synagogue. (See Matthew 10: 17 ESV)
The discussion last time was about endurance. This time it is about the conflict that arises from peoples’ profession of Jesus Christ as Son of God. Not only enemy, stranger, and acquaintance but also family members can bear the rod of persecution. Families in the great time of persecution in the first Chrsitian centuries, as well as now, have had the experience of contempt and persecution from those close to them. American Christians are not imprisoned or executed for their faith. But, the pressures in our society toward Christians are growing.
Some Christians in our country have experienced reviling from others. Secularists and atheists have attempted to limit the guarantees of the First Amendment, protecting the “free exercise of religion.” Close family members have discouraged church attendance and have been sharp in their criticism of active church membership among their Christian kin.
In the United States Christians are not being killed for their faith, as was the case at the time of Matthew. But it could happen. We must keep alert to these developments and continue a gentle and respectful defense of the faith and witness to Christ. We can also send correspondance to our representatives in Washington and the state capital.
What should we do in our families if a member or members have a deep problem with our faith? First, keep partaking of the Word and Sacrament. Remain active in church life. Do not become discouraged in your faithfulness. Gently witness to those who despise Christ and His church. Bear under the pressure with prayer, especially for increased faith and strength. There may be other issues in the family. Be a constructive force in working these out.
The family is the primary arena of our witness. We must not be overbearing in this work, but neither should we be timid. We are Christ’s disciples, no matter what context we find ourselves in, including not always the safe ground of the family.
Michael G. Tavella
October 30, 2019
Eve of the Festival of the Reformatio