One of the most challenging aspects of being a Christian is that by choosing God you often end up choosing to stand out. Again and again, we are faced with tough choices about how to live and behave, as well as responding to challenges whilst maintaining our trust in God. A natural product of this way of living is that people look at you in judgement. Simply by choosing not to join in with damaging behaviour you can be labelled the ‘prude’ or ‘goody-two-shoes’, or ironically as ‘judgemental’ yourself. In some cases standing out for Jesus can have terrible consequences. It is not uncommon to find families ripped apart because someone has become a Christian. In the Middle-East or indeed most honour-based cultures, to choose Christ is to choose to leave the family and culture you were raised in. The pain and heartbreak in such situations are beyond my comprehension.
After hearing Jesus speak to the rich young ruler Peter exclaims “We have left all we had to follow You!” Jesus’ answer is important to hear for anybody who has lost family and friends because of choosing to follow God. Jesus says (Luke 18:29-30):
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
We all recognise the promise of eternal life, but how many of us spot what is promised in this lifetime? Jesus’ answer to the Christian who has left family and friends behind is that they will receive family, brothers and sisters in this age – more even than before! Who are these people then? The answer is the Church. The promise of the Church as the family for Christians here and now, and in the eternity to come, should fill us with gratitude. It is deeply saddening that for so many this is of little comfort. But the reality is that wherever we go in the world we encounter brothers and sisters in Christ and in that sense we can always be at home. It has been difficult to act as the Church in these times, but I would encourage you to go above and beyond for those who are without, or who have lost, biological/relational family during this time. We are the Church, and now more than ever, we need to be reminded that we aren’t alone, we are with our family.