During advent we are accustomed to thinking about Christ coming to bring peace on earth (Luke 2:13-14), but what about this:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
(Matthew 10:34-39 ESV)
For me, most of Matthew 10:34–39 is theoretical, aside from the last two sentences it will probably remain so. I have had disagreements with my non-Christian parents about my faith and that has not been easy, but I could not consider the members of my own family to be my enemies.
However, in some parts of this world, today, right as you are reading this sentence, someone is having their life threatened by a member of their own family because they trust in Jesus Christ. Not only are Christians having their lives threatened, some are being tortured, and some are being killed. As an example, please take the time to read the following news excerpts and let the awful experience of this Somali teenager sink in. I became a Christian myself at the age of eighteen, but I don’t know if my faith would have withstood this:
June 15 — Nurta Mohamed Farah of Bardher, Gedo Region in southern Somalia, has been confined to her home since May 10, when her family found out that she had embraced Christianity, said a Christian leader who visited the area. “When the woman’s family found out that she converted to Christianity, she was beaten badly but insisted on her new-found religion,” said the source on condition of anonymity.
Her parents also took her to a doctor who prescribed medication for a “mental illness,” he said. Alarmed by her determination to keep her faith, her father, Hassan Kafi Ilmi, and mother, Hawo Godane Haf, decided she had gone crazy and forced her to take the prescribed medication, but it had no effect in swaying her from her faith, the source said. …. “The girl is very sick and undergoing intense suffering,” he said.
Her suffering began after she declined her family’s offer of forgiveness in exchange for renouncing Christianity, the source said. The confinement began after the medication and punishments failed.
The tiny, shaken Christian community in Gedo Region reports that the girl is shackled to a tree by day and is put in a small, dark room at night, he said. Compass Direct News.
That was back in June this year, I remember praying for her at the time I read this report and being shocked at her suffering. Today I read a follow-up story:
December 3 — A 17-year-old girl in Somalia who converted to Christianity from Islam was shot to death last week in an apparent “honor killing,” area sources said.
Nurta Mohamed Farah, who had fled her village of Bardher, Gedo Region to Galgadud Region to live with relatives after her parents tortured her for leaving Islam, died on November 25. Area sources said they strongly suspected that the two unidentified men in Galgadud Region who shot her in the chest and head with a pistol were relatives or acting on their behest.
“Reports reached the relatives in Galgadud that Nurta Farah had converted to Christianity,” one source said. “The suspicion that the family is responsible is a solid one. The sister was killed in Abudwaq, a district in Galgadud Region, and the place where the incident took place is about 200 meters from where the sister was staying with relatives.” Compass Direct News.
It is true that Somalia is a strongly Islamic nation and my initial reaction was to blame Islam for the brutal treatment of this girl and her murder. However, while I do consider Islam to be a major barrier to the spread of the Gospel, it was actually sinful men and women who persecuted and killed Nurta Mohamed Farah. They may have used their Islamic beliefs as an excuse, but it was family pride and a misguided concept of honour that caused them to behave as they did. Faith in Christ does not spread as an ideology, it spreads from the heart of a believer to the heart of a sinner. The people who persecuted and killed Nurta Mohamed Farah are sinners, this makes them perfect candidates to become believers in Jesus Christ. Please pray.