Friends and family may turn on you.

by K.W. Leslie, 02 October

Mk 13.12-13, Mt 10.21-22, Lk 12.16-19, Jn 16.2-3.

In Jesus’s Olivet Discourse, he warns his students of the tribulation they’d undergo in the near future. Not just the Romans destroying the temple, but specifically how the first Christians themselves would be persecuted. Here are some of those specifics.

Mark 13.12-13 KWL
12 “And sibling will betray sibling to death,
and parent to child,
and children will revolt against forebears,
and put them to death.
13 You’ll be hated by everyone because of my name—
and this person will be saved
when they endure to the end.”
Matthew 10.21-22 KWL
12 “Sibling will betray sibling to death,
and parent to child,
and children will revolt against forebears,
and put them to death.
13 You’ll be hated by everyone because of my name—
and this person will be saved
when they endure to the end.”
Luke 21.16-19 KWL
16 “You’ll also be betrayed by parents, siblings,
relatives and friends,
and they’ll put some of you to death.
17 You’ll be hated by everyone because of my name.
18 But if every hair on your head isn’t destroyed,
19 save your souls by your endurance!”

Rough stuff, right? But something Jesus’s students needed to hear. Something all Christians need to hear. ’Cause if we’ve grown up in not-so-dysfunctional families, where parents and siblings don’t stab you in the back on a regular basis, we’ll assume that should continue to be the case when times get rough. But the reality is this isn’t always so. Parents turn on their kids all the time. Even “good Christian parents.”

Give you an obvious example: All the “good Christian parents” who disown their gay kids. Now these parents will use the argument, “But the kids are sinning.” So what? When has sin ever been a justification for disowning one’s kid? Did King David ben Jesse disown his son Absalom after the young man not only tried to overthrow his dad, but publicly raped his dad’s concubines? 2Sa 16.21-22 If you wanna talk sin, that’s sin. God regularly forgives much bigger sins than that… but “good Christians” regularly don’t.

So the day will come (and already has, multiple times) when self-described “good Christians” will get suckered by some fascist into following him, and the fascist will want to go after anyone who rightly refuses to follow him instead of Jesus… and these “good Christians” will immediately take the side of the fascist. What if their loved ones get killed? “Oh, they brought this on themselves.” They’ll mourn their dead—but they won’t give up their idol.

Yep, family will get you killed.

I’ve heard preachers claim that back in Jesus’s day, Judean parents would never give up their kids. Never ever ever. Kids were sacrosanct. Kids were their future, and the future of their family lines, so you may as well ask them to sacrifice themselves. Judeans were loyal to their family members, and would never.

Then of course they contrast this to people of our day. Where a kid might find out his dad’s a felon, and turn him in to the marshals. Or a sister might find her brother committed a crime, and tell the cops on him. Supposedly we’re so disloyal, compared to people of ancient Judea… even though shouldn’t we tell the cops and marshals when our family members seriously break the law? (And not just because we’d be accessories, or be harboring fugitives. Justice needs to be done, right?)

Anyway, this idea Judeans would never, is of course rubbish. Family and friends have turned in family and friends, for all sorts of reasons, in every culture.

Yeah, there are plenty of situations where they won’t. Sometimes parents love their kids so much (or profit off their kids’ crimes so much), they’d gladly become accessories. They’d proudly go to jail on their kids’ behalf. They would never. True now; true back then too. But as much as they might claim this level of loyalty is righteousness, it absolutely isn’t. It’s just criminals supporting other criminals.

Sometimes parents share a common cause with their felonious kids: They share political views, all have terrorist sympathies, and are happy to enable and defend their kids. Other times parents love their kids so much, and fear prison so much, they’re okay with overlooking how dangerous their kids might be—which is why parents might totally know their kids are serial killers, or are planning to shoot up a school, yet do nothing. Because they naïvely think love might save the day. Of course it doesn’t.

But blind loyalty is something we should only have for Jesus. And maybe certain trustworthy people… but certainly not murderers and madmen. Even if they’re family.

So what Jesus is describing, isn’t a radical or unique situation. Not in Hebrew culture either. Family turned on family a bunch of times in the bible. Cain killed Abel. Jacob robbed Esau of multiple blessings. Joseph ben Jacob’s brothers sold him to slave traders. Miriam and Aaron tried to undermine Moses. David ben Jesse’s father-in-law Saul, brother-in-law Ishbaal, and of course Absalom, wanted him dead. Dysfunctional family dynamics are hardly new, and to expect some sort of exceptional loyalty from family solely because they’re family, is naïve.

But remember whom Jesus was talking to: His students. Young men who probably had really good relationships with their parents—who never considered things might get quite that bad. And of course they could. And did.


Opposition isn’t always gonna come from outside. It’s not always gonna be political. Sometimes it’ll be personal. Our beliefs offend others. Most of the time it’s because we Christians can be self-righteous jerks about it, so it’s totally understandable. But some of us are actually trying to follow Jesus… so their offense isn’t gonna come from anything evil we did, but because we make their selfishness, materialism, and self-justification so obvious by contrast. They’re gonna hate that. And us.

You know the type of person who jealously can’t handle it when neighbors and family members are successful? “What, does he think he’s better than me? He ain’t better’n me.” I have some of those. Their envy is ridiculous—why can’t you simply rejoice at others’ success?—but there are a lot of people like that, who think the only way to rise is to tear everyone else down. And when Jesus helps us put our lives in order, they can’t abide that: They have us pigeonholed as unsuccessful screw-ups, and they won’t believe we can change for the better. Certainly not better than them. They’ll want to knock us back down to “normal”—and if that means destroying us along the way, they’re remarkably okay with that.

And yeah, they’ll blame Jesus. “You must’ve joined a cult,” they might claim; or they’ll think you’ve lost your mind. If they imagine they’re Christians but aren’t really, they’ll insist we joined a tribe of extremists, or heretics, or some other wackadoo group. Like Jesus warned his kids:

John 16.2-3 KWL
2 “They’ll get you banned from synagogue,
but the hour comes when everyone who kills you
might think it’s an offering to bring to God.
3 They’ll do these things
because they’ll know neither the Father nor me.”

They won’t let you worship with them. They won’t even discuss this stuff or debate with you; get out. How dare you suggest they’re wrong?

Yeah, it’s highly personal. So people in your personal life, family and friends alike, may turn on you. Don’t be surprised. Two of Jesus’s Twelve turned on him, remember?

Those who claim we won’t suffer. (Or suffer much.)

Jesus finishes these passages by saying in Mark and Matthew “This person will be saved when they endure to the end,” and in Luke, “Save your souls by your endurance!” I discussed what Jesus meant in Luke in a previous article, but here’s the short explanation: If not a hair on your head perishes (not “Not a hair on your head will perish,” as many bibles incorrectly have it) don’t abandon Jesus in despair, nor get yourself killed in despair. Live!

Now yeah, some Christians didn’t survive the great tribulation of Rome invading Jerusalem. The Romans killed millions—including, of course, some Christians who wrongly suspected they could ride it out, instead of fleeing for the hills like Jesus instructed. And in the later persecutions—either by pagan Roman emperors, or pagan European, Asian, African, and American kings and chiefs and dictators, or “Christian nations” who figured you were the wrong kind of Christian—Christians got killed, and still get killed. Persecution still happens. But Jesus’s instructions are still valid: Ride it out, and try not to die. Endure and be saved.

Now yeah, some Christians insist the Roman invasion is not the great tribulation. That it’s yet to come; that it’s a seven-year orgy of death and mayhem that ends with Jesus’s second coming. Plus, we Christians won’t even experience this tribulation!—’cause Jesus will secretly rapture us before the bad stuff happens. It won’t touch us. We’ll be safe in heaven, enduring nothing.

Um… so how do these people figure these parts of the Olivet Discourse work? Why’s Jesus warning us about persecution if we get to escape persecution?

Well, they have two theories.

  1. Yeah the Christians are all gone… but during the great tribulation, the gospel will finally sink in for some of the pagans who remain, and they’ll become Christian. But Jesus isn’t gonna thereupon rapture them: They gotta stay on earth and ride out the tribulation. The Olivet Discourse is for them. Not us!—we’re good.
  2. The rapture doesn’t happen before the great tribulation, but in the middle of the great tribulation. So Christians will suffer. But just a little. We’ll get raptured before things get super bad.

Neither of these theories are in the bible, by the way. Oh, these folks will claim they totally are, and quote a lot of bible verses to prove it. Thing is, all their verses are plucked out of context. Don’t mean what they want ’em to mean.

So am I claiming the rapture happens after the tribulation? Well yes… because the great tribulation happened 19 and a half centuries ago. Happens way, way, WAY after the tribulation.

Although it’s not fair to say those Christians in the present day, who are in countries where they’re getting hassled or jailed or murdered for being Christian, aren’t undergoing tribulation. They absolutely are.

And Jesus’s words apply to any suffering. Any persecution. Any tribulation. At some point those times are gonna come to an end. Chief persecutors will die, and be replaced by benign leaders… or even pro-Christian leaders, as happened in ancient Rome. At some point enough people in the Politburo are gonna be succeeded by Christians. Happened in Russia; might yet happen elsewhere, God willing.

If you held out the whole time, as Jesus said, you’ll be saved.

Yeah, you’ll be tempted to capitulate. Especially under torture. Plenty of ancient Christians gave in to the Romans’ demands and worshiped the emperor, and felt like they doomed themselves to hell because of it. (As if Jesus won’t forgive people who deny him.) We’re human; we’re weak. Jesus is fully aware of this. But, he encourages us, try. Work on your endurance. It’s worth it.

Because if you don’t die, and Jesus doesn’t yet come back, suffering will always have an endpoint. Are you gonna come out of it in victory or defeat? ’Cause Jesus offers us the power to be victorious. It sounds way better than the alternatives.