Audrey Rae, Braxton, and Charlotte-
Kids, being religious can be very difficult. From the get go, religion is a touchy subject. People will often see you very differently when they learn of your faith. Suddenly you’re seen through a lens that is their opinion of that faith. Questions, spoken and unspoken, abound in the form of things like, “I didn’t think Hindus could eat that”, or, “I didn’t think Christians were allowed to drink alcohol”, or whichever other presupposition, will arise often. People’s reactions will come in varying degrees, from simple acceptance and acknowledgement of your faith to outright anger, and even worse.
We’re a Christian family, and are raising you three with the goal that you share that faith when you’re older. Assuming that’ll be the case, you should be aware of the aforementioned truths about religion and others’ reaction to it, but there is another truth I need you to know and be aware of, one that is even more intimidating than prying questions or mild judgment.
Religious persecution is still alive and thriving today.
Just a couple of months ago, Sunni Muslims in Iraq gave an ultimatum to those of other religions, particularly Christians: leave or die. Much like “Juden” was put on the homes of Jews during World War II, a symbol was put on the homes of Iraqi Christians: ﻥ. It’s the Arabic letter “N”, for “Nazarene”, which is how Christians are referred to in Iraq.
They were being marked.
It sounded surreal when I first heard about it. I thought this sort of religious cleansing was a thing of the past, that this sort of thing was only in the history books, never to be seen in current events again.
I got over my naiveté quickly.
The deadline loomed over world media and a mass exodus began. But, when the deadline hit, the reality of it all came crashing down. There were public executions, beheadings, and more. Women and children were not excluded, nor were any bystanders just there to observe, like media representatives.
Western Christians wanted to do something to try and support our brothers and sisters in Iraq, but, truthfully, not much could be done by your average person, other than raise awareness. That’s when the phrase, “We are ﻥ ” popped up, or the hashtag “We are N” (Oh, gosh…do you still have hashtags? It’s like a way to, sort of…categorize things on the internet and…you know what? Nevermind.) The message was simple, we may not be with you in body, but we support you in spirit. We’re with you, we support you, we love you. We aren’t in your situation, but we all serve the same God.
And unfortunately, kids, that truth goes beyond just being with them in spirit. It may not be physical or deadly (I pray to God it won’t ever be for you guys) but you will absolutely still face persecution someday. I promise you, someone will mock you for your faith. I guarantee, someone will belittle you for what you believe. There will be people who will automatically assume you’re a bigot or homophobic or something else terrible that someone else claiming to be a Christian made this person assume all Christians are. There will be others who are far more subtle, they may not even know they’re persecuting you, but once they hear about your faith, their singular goal will be to contradict you, to try and tear down the Bible and your faith. This will be a vast minority of the people you meet, most will be perfectly kind, but those who persecute religion will come into your life at some point, I’m sure of it.
Be ready for it. Build up thick skin and a calm heart because no matter how much time passes or how much we mature as a culture, there will always be people who resent religion, especially Christianity. As a believer, you need to be ready to receive the harsh words from these people, you need to be prepared to let them roll off of you back, and, the hardest part:
You need to be prepared to love the people delivering those words.
It’s incredibly difficult, but the moment we respond with hate or anger is the moment that we validate their persecution. We need to train ourselves to respond with love, with patience, and with respect. Many claim, and it is hard to dispute, that Christianity is the most persecuted religion on the planet, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. But the only way to respond to that persecution is by showing them how wrong they are about Christ.
People will call you prudes, boring, sissies, homophobes, bigots, hypocrites, and even worse than that, just because you claim the name of Christ, and because others who have claimed to know Christ have said equally harsh things to others.
Love those people. Show them that they’re wrong. Show who Jesus really is.
I hope to raise you kids to be strong enough to love people like that, even when they persecute you.
I love you guys.
1 Corinthians 1:4