I was preparing for the sermon for this week and part of the Gospel (Mark 10:23-31) stuck in my mind. I won't be preaching on this part of the text so I thought I would add my thoughts here.
Jesus says, "No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundreds times as much in this present age and in the age to come - eternal life." (Mk. 10:29-30 NIV) As I thought of this, I realized that is what is taking place in family after family. The Gospel comes to the person, they are saved, they begin to live as a child of God and the family turns against them. They are treated differently because of trying to follow the Lord. They are scorned by family because they don't give in to the thinking of the world. And it is difficult on them.
It is hard to not have family with you. It is difficult to stand firm on your belief when your brother or sisters makes fun of you, looks down their nose at you or treats you differently because of your faith in Jesus. They want to party, you don't, so they don't invite you to spend time with them. Ouch. They like to be involved in sexual relationships outside of their marriage or with someone that they are not married to, so they don't want you around them. Sigh. They prefer to be backhanded in their dealings with others, lie to people, sneak around and then, when you speak the truth in love, they tear you down for being honest and open. It hurts.
Satan uses that to try to get the Christian to change their stand. He doesn't use it to try to get the non-Christian or non-practicing Christian (which almost is a misnomer since how can you be a Christian and not practice your faith?) to change and do what is right. The pressure is on the Christian. Are you going to stand strong? Are you going to continue to live your faith? Or will you give it up for the family? That, my dear ones, is a hard choice, almost unfair to the Christian. But it isn't unfair. It is what Christ lays before us time and again. How are you going to live? For Christ or for the world?
All I can say to you if you are facing this situation is, "Stay firm in faith." Remember not to take your eyes off the real goal - eternal life. I know that you aren't thinking eternal life when your family is pressuring you, but that is part of the package. Don't give up your walk of faith for a few moments of peace with the family. They will not give up their life for you, why are they asking you to give up yours for them? It is a struggle.
I am not going to tell you that it will be all right. It won't be. You will hurt. You will feel alone. You will think that maybe you are wrong in your beliefs and your walk. All those things will take place. At those times remember the promise of Christ, "I am with you always." (Matthew 28:20 NIV) That promise transcends all that you are facing right now in your life. The Lord promises help and strength. You are not alone. I know, you will feel like it. But the Lord will bring someone into your life to give you encouragement and strength.
It is a hard walk - the life of faith. But the outcome, the end is worth every step. Remember that. That is what Jesus is telling you in this reading. (OK, so there is more to it than that, but there needs to be something left for the sermon.) Hang in there.