28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Sometimes when I read a familiar passage of the Bible, I notice God has stuck something new in there. Of course, I know it’s not really new, just newly noticed. As I was preparing the devotion for the women’s retreat, the phrase bolded above jumped out at me, “along with persecutions”. Now I realize I haven’t really “given up” a lot to follow Jesus or for the sake of the Gospel. I was raised in a Christian home, and most of my friends throughout my life have been Christians. Unfortunately, my first husband was not, but I knew that going into the marriage (I was 19 and naïve. And that’s a subject for another post.)
This particular passage spoke to me because my children are in the process of finding their own paths of faith. It’s painful, as a parent, to watch your children struggle with or reject (hopefully temporarily) things you feel so passionately about, and have worked so hard to instill in them. It’s very personal. But I know “God doesn’t have any grandchildren.” We’re all God’s children. My children must have their own relationship with God, not my relationship with God. Which means, for a time, I must get on with my God relationship while praying for my children to find theirs. My children aren’t babies. They’re teenagers and young adults.
In the midst of this season of prayers, God has brought more young people into my life; young people who are also struggling in different ways and may not even have a clue that there’s a God who loves them. Some of these kids don’t even know if they have families that love them! And they want that so badly! These young people are hurt very deeply. In my years of ministry, I have learned that hurt people hurt people. They probably don’t mean to. They may not even know they are doing it. But working with them can be painful and one must develop a very thick skin.
Somehow I think we imagine God is going to make things go smoothly and great for us when we choose to follow Him. And sometimes He might. But we should expect persecutions when we follow Jesus. Why? Because He puts within us a deep love for others. And those we love have the greatest opportunity to hurt us because our hearts are fully open to them. It feels like persecution sometimes. BUT… we will also have eternal life. And the joy that comes from seeing someone you love receive healing and salvation from Jesus Christ makes it all worth while.