If you are human, you know what it means to be rejected! As Jesus sends his 12 disciples out, teaching them to be his witnesses in the world, he prepares them for the certainty of rejection. The question is not whether we will be rejected or not, the question is how do we handle the rejection. We can choose to take rejection personally, or we can ignore the rejection and push our way into people’s homes anyways, or we can do as Christ says, go on to a place where we will be welcomed and heard.
The Lord Jesus Christ sends out the 12, two by two (ministry is never meant to be alone, but that’s a different message), and he says rejection is part of the deal. Learn to handle rejection well. Man’s rejection may be God’s direction. Some people may not let you into their messy house. Some people clearly reject the Lord, he is an unwelcome guest. Jesus Christ knows ultimate rejection, dying on the cross, an innocent man, rejected by the world. Isaiah 53:3 prophecies of Jesus' rejection. We all know the feeling of being a loser. Christ lived rejection. To not have somebody welcome you into your life is minor compared to the unsurpassing suffering and rejection experienced by Jesus.
Our mission is to respond to Christ’s calling to share the message of salvation to the people in our world. We are Christ’s ambassadors, representing Christ. As representatives of Christ, some will invite us into their messy homes and messy lives, and others will reject us. One of the first lessons Jesus teaches is how to handle rejection. Christ knows rejection. We know rejection. How to handle rejection, and to see rejection as an opportunity to go on to those who will welcome you, and listen, and ultimately those who will welcome Christ.
1), in order to handle rejection properly, you must understand your purpose. The purpose of a Christian is to live for Christ. The words are easy to say, and reality can be painful, but if you are living for Christ, and you are rejected for a job, a home, the Lord will open up another opportunity, he will give you direction. I know the frustration of waiting. I waited at one point for about five years before it became obvious what God wanted me to do. I even went to school in that time and got another degree in order to keep my sanity – the best money I ever spent, my student loan will soon be paid off…
The scripture says, “Calling the twelve together…” The purpose is to represent Christ, when you commit yourself to live under Christ’s directions, then everything we do, if we could live a completely consistent and honorable life, is prefaced by listening to the Lord’s direction for me. Christ calls and sends. As we understand our purpose, then when we are rejected, we understand it is under the banner of God’s guidance…
2) in order to handle rejection properly, understand your role. The Lord does give you a measure of control. We represent Christ, and he gives us authority. He gives us permission to act in his name, to make decisions. We are not mindless zombies doing the bidding of Christ, but he uses our personality, our minds, our hearts, he trusts us to do his work… “sent them out two by two and give them authority over impure spirits.”
I am not sure the full ramifications of what is meant by impure spirits, but at the least, it means that we have the capacity to not be stymied when things go wrong. We have been given a certain measure of judgment. Impure spirits are spirits and situations and people that reject Christ, are contrary to Christ. You handle rejection by refusing to sink to the level of those that are rejecting you. Keep your Christian values, the values of Christ, the joy of the Lord, because you have authority over those that reject you. Christ in you is greater than the spirits outside of you working against you and rejecting you. You have authority.
3) Why does Jesus instructions include no money, only sandals, not an extra shirt, etc. Obviously the form is for them in that particular mission and not an absolute rigid command for us for all time. Later Paul reminds the churches he helps establish that he did not need any money from them. The principle is what is important. Trust God daily for your needs, allow yourself to be helped, you don’t need to plan for every contingency as you go about the Lord’s business, but be amazed in how He provides. The lighter you travel, the more flexible you are and can adjust more easily. When Sally and I want to Israel back in the late 80’s, we had one suitcase between us, while some couples had two suitcases each. There were at times when our minds were at much more ease than some of our counterparts because two of us being responsible for one suitcase was so much simpler. The principle, be flexible, trust in God, be guided by him, use times of rejection as a message to go on to other homes, other lives, other people.
4). Rejection is not a time to be stymied. I heard a story about one person that was helping in a service club, and a particular family was angry because the gift the man delivered for the club was not quite good enough, so this young man washed his hands of helping others, quit the club, and vowed to never help so directly ever again. Rejection too often causes immobility. We stop and never start again. We hole up in our own homes. Churches that are rejected, that do not find success, too often hole up and become inward focused. Giving yourself away is too painful because rejection is too painful. Too many people are ungrateful. Too many people take advantage of the church, or your generosity, or they slam the door in your face. And how easy to stop, become depressed, feel sorry for yourself, and determine never to be hurt so painfully again. What does Christ say to do when you are rejected. “Leave that place.” When there is rejection, there are times when we need the wisdom of Christ, rather than trying to hold on, rather than hunkering down, to “go on, go on.” “Leave that place” Jesus says. Man’s rejection may be God’s direction. If one thing doesn’t work, go someplace else. Don’t stop.
5) Rejection is not to be take personally. When I was young I would take rejection so personally, I let rejection defeat me and wear me down. It still happens, but now that I am older I more often claim the authority the Lord has given me, I understand it is not me, and I move on…. Just as this scripture says… if I were to take it personally everytime I was rejected by somebody or something around Sumas, I’d be doing nothing but wallowing in self-misery and having a constant pity party.
Don’t take rejection personally. If you act with integrity, with pure motives, then you must understand that God is controlling your life. In fact, it is the design of God to be able to transfer the burden to Christ so that we don’t need to take every rejection personally. Years ago I heard a speaker describe all the problems in his life, the overwhelming issues, and as he grew in his understanding of God and God’s ways, he learned not to say, “I’ve got a problem, God,” but instead say, “God, you’ve got a problem, what are you going to do about it.” If you are living under the banner of Christ, you really don’t have any problems, they are God’s. You aren’t rejected, Christ is.
God sometimes uses rejection to move us to a new place or assignment--where we wouldn't have thought of going on our own. He must slam the door in our face through rejection to get us to look in another direction. Then when we get to that new place, we thank God for the rejection rather than being bitter about it.
When rejected don’t take it personal…I love this true story from Jill Morgan, the daughter-in-law of G. Campbell Morgan, a well known author and pastor of several generations ago. She wrote in her book, A MAN OF THE WORD, “In 1888 my father-in-law was rejected for the ministry. He wired to his father the one word, “Rejected,” and sat down to write in his diary: “Very dark everything seems. Still, He knoweth best.” Quickly came the reply from his father: “Rejected on earth. Accepted in heaven. Dad.” //In later years, Morgan said: “God said to me, in the weeks of loneliness and darkness that followed, ‘I want you to cease making plans for yourself, and let Me plan your life.’” Rejection is God’s way of moving us around, to keep on going. To stymy us, to take rejection personally, is a victory of Satan. Man’s rejection may be God’s direction.
6) How do you handle rejection. I love the summary phrase from the scripture, “Shake the dust off your feet.” Matthew 10:13-15 expands the phrase. Ultimately, it is quite serious for those who reject the message of Christ. By "shaking the dust" off your feet, however, you are leaving the matter between them and God. It is an acknowledgment that God is not using you at this time to reach those particular people with the message of salvation. God is not calling me to reach every person for Christ and be successful in every encounter or every program that I try. The person may not be ready to accept Christ into their home The assignment may be left for the next person. To shake the dust off your feet means I must move on and leave the household in God's hands. The Matthew passage is quite serious, but I have to believe that perhaps God will use other at a later time to reach them for Christ. I like to be liked, but I know there are people in Sumas that are incredibly neutral to me, they neither love me nor hate me, they are neutral. That’s ok. We must be ready to go where the Lord calls us. (note: I rewrote this paragraph from the message I delivered in response to one kind person pointing out the Matthew passage, and suggesting there was more to the phrase "Shake the dust of your feet" than what I took it to mean in the Mark passage.)
Rejection is real. We must understand and accept that Christ is not welcome in every home, and by extension, neither are we. God often chooses to use rejection to give us direction. To follow God means we are not to be made immobile by rejection because we refuse to be hurt ever again, and we are not to take rejection personally. We are called to move on to the next place, the next assignment. The Lord has given us the authority to accept rejection, to accept it is not us that is being rejected but it is Christ in us. Rejection does not mean the condemnation of God, that we so easily get in our mind, but it is God guiding us to move on. To shake the dust off your feet means to leave the dust where it is, leave the problems where they lie, and move on to a different place of acceptance, where the message will be received and there will be blessings all around. In many homes, Christ is an unwelcome guest, so we must move on to other places, ready to bless those who welcome us and serve those who accept us. Man’s rejection may be God’s direction. Amen.