Family get-togethers with my parents, siblings, their spouses, and my nieces and nephews are loud and busy. (Just ask my husband, Jim!) Add in a girlfriends, boyfriends, a great-niece, and a few dogs, and those get-togethers become chaotic. I have a large family, and I love each one of them.
I have another, even larger, family which I love dearly as well. That family is my Christian family. I am blessed be able to get together with some of them at least once a week, sometimes more often. Just as I delight in spending time with my biological family, I also delight in spending time with my Christian family.
Beyond my family of origin and their families, I have many aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins once removed, second cousins, and more, spread out throughout the United States. My dad is one of nine children; my mom is one of five. My family is large. While, I have never seen some of them face-to-face, I “get-together” with many of them through Facebook. They are my family and I love them and have a bond with them.
My Christian family spreads not only around the country, but also around the world. Most of them I will not meet until we “get-together” in heaven with our Father. Others I have been blessed to meet in Mexico, Russia, Hong Kong, and in the around the United States as well as around the city of Omaha. I love both those I have met and those I have yet to meet.
Families often have trials and tribulations, pain and difficulty. My family on Jim’s side recently faced such a time with the passing of Jim’s brother on June 15, Father’s Day. Jim is now the only remaining member of his family of origin. As a family we came together at Paul’s funeral, which was heartbreaking.
My Christian family also faces trials and tribulations. As I write this blog there is a story on television detailing how Christians around the world are facing persecution in increased amounts for their faith. For example, Isis has given an ultimatum to Christians in Mosul: convert, pay, or die. This ancient Christian community which dates back to New Testament times now has almost no or possibly even zero Christians remaining there, as they have fled to other areas. Christians are also being tortured and killed in Boko Haram. Just as my heart broke at the death of my brother-in-law, so my heart breaks at the persecution and even death of my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Speaking of the end times, Jesus stated in Matthew 24:9, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.” Persecution has been around since Cain and Able. In the early church even children were put to death by lions in the Roman coliseums for their faith. As a Christian thoughts of persecution can be frightening and overwhelming. But Jesus does not leave us without hope. In Matthew 24:13 he states, “But the one who endures to then end will be saved.”
As I watch my brothers and sisters in Christ fleeing terrorism, dying for their faith, and enduring torture, it is first and foremost my prayer that they will stand strong firm in the faith until the end and be saved. It is second my prayer that my church family around the world will stand together in solidarity and reach out their hands to those who endure persecution. Finally, I pray Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom will proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” I pray that the gospel spreads, the family grows, and Christ be glorified through this time of trial and tribulation.