Metabolizing Rejection & Getting Back on Mission

Dear Craig,  …you really find the wrong person. I am so sorry. I think you should spend more time on the other people, and I am not the right person…  I am very very sorry for this, and I hope you enjoy your life.

Rejection has many faces.  It comes to visit us if our passion runs counter to prevailing attitudes and actions.  Rejection can sit like a bitter pill in the soul for church planters.  We will become sick if it not metabolized or digested.  After an enjoyable conversation with a bright UBC scholar, I was served the most gentle rejection.  It was even accompanied by a blessing, “I hope you enjoy your life.”  Yet, I felt the weight of it in my gut.

Jesus was familiar with rejection.  His rejection ultimately became the pathway for our inclusion in the Kingdom of God by grace.  However, the great purpose attached to his experience did not shield him from the pain.  Researchers confirm that social rejection lights up the brain as if we have been punched in the gut.  It hurts!

When Jesus went “home” he experienced rejection as he lived out his Heavenly Father’s purposes (Mark 6:1-13).  After he taught in the local synagogue, Nazareth could not deny the greatness of his teaching or his works.  However, Nazareth would not accept him.  They rejected Jesus.  In the the anatomy of their rejection they got really personal.  They raised suspicions about his birth.  They limited him because of his training as a carpenter.  They compared him to the rest of the family.  And in the end they took offense at Jesus.

Planting the Gospel dominates our disciple-making journey at UBC.  Sharing what God has done through the birth, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus sometimes provokes rejection of not only the message but also the messenger.  Because rejection strikes at the heart and generates fear, I have found it helpful to look closely at how Jesus metabolized rejection.

1.  He recognized it.  He said, “A prophet is not without honour, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”  vs 4

2.  He refrained from provoking them further.  Jesus began to withdraw.  “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.”  vs 5

3.  He marveled at their unbelief.  vs 6  Jesus reflected on their rejection and found their unbelief surprising for it was contrary to what had been revealed to them.

4.  He got back on mission.  Jesus set out and “he went about among the villages teaching.  And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two…”  vs 6-7

5.  He equipped the disciples for rejection.  “And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”

Jesus knows the spiritual warfare connected with rejection makes disciples vulnerable.  When rejection sticks to us we are in danger of anger, discouragement, vengeful thinking, and perhaps even abandoning the mission and the message of Jesus.  The prophetic act of shaking the dust off was meant to “shake off” the slime of rejection for the benefit of the disciples.  And the act also served as a note of caution and an invitation to those who rejected them to reconsider.  At Origin we are seeking to be a Gospel-shaped church.  Thank you for your support and prayer for us.  As you pray, ask the Lord to give us grace to metabolize rejection when it comes and then to get back on mission.

(This article was first published in the April 2012 edition of the WestCoast Challenge, a publication of the WestCoast Baptist Association.)

Love & Rejection

“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”  William Congreve, “The Mourning Bride” 1697

Any serious consideration of love must confront the experience of rejection.  Those unprepared for rejection will be surprised by it and unsure of how to get back up and into loving others.  Most of us live measured lives dominated by our efforts to avoid being rejected.  Rejection comes in small doses and large.  Even while Jesus equipped the disciples to pursue His mission with sincere love, he prepared them for rejection.

Rejection hurts.

Really.  It really hurts.  When you’ve been ignored, passed over, snubbed or outright dissed, the experience creates physical symptoms.  In fact, according to Matt Lieberman and Naomi Eisenberger of the University of California, Los Angeles, the same part of the brain “lights up” when we experience emotional pain as when we experience physical pain.

Turn to Jesus when you feel rejected.

Strange thing: when you follow Jesus into His mission of love and Gospel life, rejection lurks.  Even though Jesus had instructed the disciples on how to respond to rejection (Luke 9:5) at this stage of His ministry, they quickly forgot it under the initial pain of rejection.  “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

Before we condemn the disciples, do you remember the vengeful desire that rose up in you when you were rejected?  When you tried to move toward another person with love and kindness and they rejected you?  When you spoke of your life with Jesus and the good news of the Gospel and they rejected you?  It hurts. And that hurt is actually compounded by our memories of previous hurt laid upon us in rejection of the past.  Fortunately, the disciples’ relationship with Jesus as Lord prevailed.  Before striking out, they asked Him.

Not speaking with Jesus about our pain in rejection ushers us into some damaging scenarios: patterns of denial and the inability to connect with others, idolatry and patterns of destructive and selfish management of our pain.  The Disciples were right to speak with Jesus first.

Rejection and growth.

“But he turned and rebuked them.  And they went on to another village.”

Jesus can refine your character, your love, and your faith when you have been rejected.  Jesus rebuked the disciples for their vengefulness (Luke 9:55) Genuine growth as a person of faith on mission with Jesus requires the grace of God.  When rejected we realign our heart with Jesus–the one who experienced profound rejection at the cross (Isaiah 53) and then by His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit we continue with Him in His mission (Romans 5:1-5).

If you have experienced persistent and profound rejection from those from whom you had expected great care and love, I pray that you would progressively know that healing work of Jesus Christ in your live.  If you have committed yourself to the mission of Jesus I pray that when you are rejected you will look to Jesus for cues on how to respond so that you leave room for the grace of God to work in your life and in the one(s) who rejected you.