As someone who loves history, the stories of our family line always intrigued me. Family history is like stamps on letters. They stick and get passed on. I see it all over the Bible and in the Jewish culture today. They’re pros at passing on family chronicles. The genealogy of Jesus isn’t just a fun fact to tickle our ears, but an essential part of culture since before he came to earth. Each person played a role…
My great-grandma and her husband were devout Eastern Orthodox believers. They had icons in their home, which wasn’t uncommon during the Soviet Union. One day as she was gardening, she set her tool down and asked God to show Himself to her. From my grandma’s description, her mom got weary of religiosity. She needed to know if there was more to life and if there was a God.
but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.Acts 1:8
Right then and there, the Holy Spirit revealed Himself to her, baptizing her with tongues of fire. He showed her that Jesus was the only way, truth, and life. Filled with the Holy Spirit, she shared the Gospel with her kids (my grandma and her six siblings), and they ALL received Christ as their Savior. The Holy Spirit came upon them and baptized them, too. But that’s not where it ended…
Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.Luke 6:22
As they pursued a life of truth and following Jesus, others persecuted them. Including my great-grandfather. My grandma recalls him forcing her to kneel before orthodox icons and beating her after she refused to bow to anything/anyone other than Christ. My great uncle seemed to live as apostle Paul did. He got flogged, imprisoned, drowned, even left for dead. But yet he survived.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,Matthew 5:10
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Aside from physical and verbal abuse in the home, communism was oppressive. There were wars, starvation, and more imprisonment. My great grandmother and grandmother’s siblings sat in prison often. We can look back at it now and say their faith was thriving, but at the time, it may have not seemed so. This was a reality for them for a long time.
Still, they pursued God more than ever. They met in underground churches and had private prayer meetings late at night. They read the Bible together and encouraged each other to hang on to their faith.
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.1 Timothy 6:12
My grandma, who attended these meetings as she could, often walked home with my grandpa (before they got married). It was dangerous to walk alone, so he offered to accompany her. Their love story always impressed me. He told her upfront if she would marry him, life would be hard. She did, and it was.
As an evangelical missionary, he often traveled (even to prison), and she remained at home, taking care of the household and his parents until they passed. During starvations, she told me, they would spend time in the fields gleaning whatever scraps of berries or edible grass they can find. During all this, they had sixteen children (consecutively, no twins or triplets!).
When communism ended in ’89, a Jesus movement revival started. From my great-grandmother to my grandma, then to my parents and mom’s 15 siblings, following Jesus to the end is being truly lived out. When I think of how Christianity came to be in our family, I’m in awe of God’s grace.
There are people all around the world getting persecuted today for having faith in Jesus. Even in America, where we have freedom of religion and speech. Persecution won’t stop – it’s the reality of a believer. But this shouldn’t prevent us from pursuing Christ and living out the calling we’ve received.
Though it’s a stressful subject, it’s not something to be afraid of. But encouraged to continue the good fight of faith, to pray unceasingly, and rejoice in the truth day in and out.
What is the history of your family? Is there a legacy of faith in your family that you can continue? …Or START?
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.2 Timothy 3:12