Rejection is one of the worst feelings we can experience. We are communal creatures. We are designed to live connected with each other. For that reason, being rejected or excluded cuts deep. Yet, the feeling of rejection is common to the human experience. Just think of all the books, movies, plays, and television shows that revolve around the feeling of rejection. Rejection is real. It hurts. We all experience it.
Not only is rejection painful and common, I’ve observed that there seems to be a positive correlation between people who do great things and the amount of rejection they experience. It seems that rejection affects people who do great things disproportionately over people who don’t. If you’d like to investigate this yourself consider: Ghandi, William Wilberforce, and Susan B. Anthony.
This, of course, is true of Jesus as well. He was rejected by his hometown (Mark 6:1-6; Matthew 13:54-58; Luke 4:16-30). He by his broader community in Galilee (Matthew 11:20-24; Luke 10:13-35). He was rejected by many of his followers (John 6:60-66). He was rejected by his people, the Jews (John 7). He was rejected by one of his closest friends (John 18:15-27). Jesus experienced a great deal of rejection and when he died only his mother, one friend, and a few women who followed him were there (John 19:25-27).
Rejection is something Jesus could have avoided. Popular acclaim was one of the things with which Satan tempted him (Matthew 4:8). There were innumerable chances for Jesus to either stop what he was doing or to become the person the people wanted. He did none of this. He expected rejection and embraced it.
How Should This Inform the Life of the Christ-Follower
None of us wants to experience rejection. Just think of the ridiculous things we’ve done in life to be accepted. Don’t think you’ve ever done anything ridiculous to be accepted? I have two words for you: middle school. We all spend some part of our emotional energy trying to make sure we’re not rejected and wondering if we will be rejected.
But guess what.
If you are following Jesus, you will be rejected. “‘If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. … Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you” (John 15:18, 20b).
I think it’s important to note at this point that it was the religious leaders that most rejected Jesus. The people clearly not following God did not reject Jesus. The people that thought they were following God closely rejected him. I often hear people lamenting how Christianity is rejected in the public sphere. These same people often blame negative aspects of our culture on the media and political policies with which they don’t agree. I am not saying that this isn’t a form of rejection, but it’s not the only rejection that Christ-followers are going to experience. That rejection is distant and doesn’t cut very deeply.
There is a worse rejection that Christ-followers will endure. That is rejection by people in the religious establishment or people close to you. If you follow Jesus, you will experience that kind of rejection too. Anytime you upset the apple cart in Jesus name you will experience rejection.
When we experience rejection, we should respond like Jesus. We should expect and embrace rejection.
If you are following Jesus, expect rejection. We should never be surprised when people reject and ridicule us for doing what Jesus has called us to do. It’s a reality of living in God’s Kingdom. There are people, spirits, and institutions that are fighting violently against King Jesus and his Kingdom. A common weapon in their arsenal is rejection. Don’t be surprised when you are rejected. Jesus was.
If you are following Jesus embrace rejection. Embrace don’t chase rejection. We’ve all met people that are chasing rejection. Jesus never chased rejection. If you chase rejection you’ll get it, but you won’t be spreading the Good News of Jesus in the process. Embracing rejection means welcoming it as a natural part of following Jesus and using it to guide you to new aspects of eternal life. To find practical ways to embrace rejection read the Book of Acts. The first church spread in large part through rejection.
Rejection hurts. No emotionally healthy individual enjoys rejection. Yet, it is a natural part of life and I believe those of us who choose to follow Jesus completely will experience a disproportionately greater amount than others. We can’t fight it. We can’t avoid it. We can like Jesus expect and embrace it.
What examples of expecting and embracing rejection have you seen?