Anyone who has become a Christian in a family of unbelievers can testify to the hundreds of ways persecution can be experienced. Jesus warned us up front about this in chilling language. It was Jesus who experienced this from his own family, being chided and misunderstood (Luke 2:48), and his “own people did not accept him” (John 1:11).
Most families in the world are not nuclear in nature, but extended, so an entire web of kinship relations are fouled up by the action of becoming a Christian. It can be very difficult to make one’s way in the world accordingly. We could even say it is one’s family culture that rejects the Christian witness. One reason for this is over-familiarity. Jesus generalizes from his experience of rejection in Nazareth saying, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown” (Matthew 13:57).
This goes right back to the dawn of human history. The first recorded act of violence was due to family persecution—Cain murdering his brother Abel out of religious jealousy. King David bemoans the betrayal of a close friend in Psalm 41:9, “Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” Jeremiah is dismayed to find members of his own family involved in an assassination plot against him; “…even your kinsfolk and your own family, even they have dealt treacherously with you; they are in full cry after you” (Jeremiah 12:6).
In China today, if a student converts to Christianity it is the parents that insist he or she give up her faith, for fear of an inferior work placement bringing dishonor to the family. In many Buddhist societies, like Burma, to become a Christian is tantamount to saying “I am no longer Burmese.”
It is family misunderstanding that is often hardest to bear. After all, we long for the love of those who have nurtured us. To have that love relationship ruptured ranks as one of the greatest traumas a human being can face.
In Pakistan, a father was asked why he murdered his daughter. He answered simply, “I didn’t murder my daughter. When she became a Christian, she was no longer my daughter.” He will never be charged for his crime.