Question: "If I convert to Christianity, my family will disown me, and I will be persecuted. Should I follow Jesus?"
Answer: The Lord Jesus made it clear that following Him is a costly venture. In fact, it costs us everything. But Jesus is worth it all!
Converting to Christianity = following Jesus
True Christians don’t follow the rules of a religion but follow their Lord Jesus Christ. While some supposedly convert to Christianity in name only, Jesus knows His true followers. Only these will enter heaven.
He told some unbelieving Jews, "But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one" (John 10:26-30). While Jesus promised that His followers would never perish in hell but would have eternal life, He also assured them that following Him had a cost.
First, following Jesus costs yourself. Jesus told the crowds, “Whoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Mark 8:34). The cross was an instrument of death. Therefore, taking up your cross means dying to self. To reject this cross is to reject Christ. Such a person is unworthy to be Christ’s disciple (Luke 14:27). To follow Jesus, all your earthly desires and ambitions must be crucified.
Second, following Jesus may cost losing family and friends. Jesus explains in Matthew 10:32-39 that His coming brings division between His followers and their families. Anyone who does not hate (meaning love less) his family is not worthy to be Christ's follower.
If you deny Jesus in order to maintain peace in your earthly family, He will deny you entrance to paradise. But if you confess Him before men, regardless of the personal price you may pay, He will say to His Father, “This one is mine – welcome him into Your kingdom.” Once His follower, you will be a part of God’s family, the church.
Third, following Jesus may cost losing your possessions. One rich man proudly thought he was good enough to go to heaven. Testing him, “Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me’" (Matthew 19:21). Loving wealth more than Christ, the rich man sadly forsook Jesus.
Grasping onto the things of this short life is worthless if it means eternity apart from God. Jesus said, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Finally, following Jesus will cost trials and persecution. Jesus encourages you to expect it as a normal part of being His follower. Jesus even called the persecuted one “blessed” and tells us to “rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven is great” (Matthew 5:10-12).
Remember that God’s people have always been persecuted. The prophets were persecuted, reviled, tortured, and killed (Hebrews 11:37). The 12 disciples of Jesus (except John who was exiled) were executed for preaching Christ.
Tradition states that Peter insisted on being crucified upside down because he counted himself unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord. Yet he wrote in his first letter “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of God and of glory rests on you” (1 Peter 4:14). The Apostle Paul was jailed, beaten, and stoned numerous times for preaching Christ, but he considered his sufferings not even worth mentioning compared to the reward he knew awaited him in paradise (Romans 8:18).
Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll lose your possessions, family, friends, and life, but are you willing?
While the cost of discipleship seems high, persecution brings earthly and heavenly rewards. Jesus has promised to be with His followers always (Matthew 28:20); He will never leave or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5); He knows your pain and suffering, having suffered Himself for you (1 Peter 2:21); nothing can separate you from God’s love (Romans 8:31-37); He will never test you beyond your ability to withstand (1 Corinthians 10:13); He uses persecution to shape your character and glorify Himself (Romans 8:28).
If you follow Jesus, you become a member of the family of God and become His witness to your loved ones and the world. The persecution you experience brings glory to God. As Romans 8:28 says, trust God to work all things – even persecution – for good.
The rewards far outweigh the cost of following Jesus! Jesus promised, "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:25-26).
Follow Jesus who suffered: “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, ‘who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth’ and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls” (1 Peter 2:21-25).