I’m pretty sure we all share a common experience and feeling at some point in our lives and that’s rejection. And it sucks. It feels horrible. No one wants to be rejected, on the outside, dismissed as inadequate or unacceptable. And it starts really early on - the child in the playground with no one to play with, the last person to be picked for the sports team.
I can remember, aged 11, being marched out of my school classroom by a group of girls who needed to ‘address’ my uniform. Jumper lifted, skirt rolled up about 10 times and then I was in. Now that my image had been altered, I was deemed acceptable. I was now allowed to sit with them at lunch. I was suddenly invited to parties and included… and all because my skirt needed to be shorter. Maybe it’s not a childhood experience of rejection. Maybe it’s more along the lines of:
- turned down time after time for job interviews
- being on the receiving end of a relationship break up
- not speaking the local language
- being the only guy in the room that doesn’t like sport
- being the single parent
- offering to serve and being ‘politely’ turned down
- being the unmarried one
- not having enough money to enter the social circle
- being the divorcee…
Whatever it is, at some time in our lives, we experience rejection.
The lies of rejection are many. Rejection tells us that we are unlovable, unwanted, unacceptable. Rejection speaks of being despised, abandoned and forgotten. It says you are denied, inadequate and kept out. Rejection says you are forsaken.
Unfortunately, the church is not immune from rejection. Because it’s made up of people. People who are broken and hurt, and hurt people hurt people, whether intentionally and not. But what do we do when we experience rejection in church?
The Bible has many examples of people who were rejected. To name a few - Moses was initially rejected by the Israelites, Jephthah was rejected for being the son of a prostitute, Noah was mocked by the whole world, Stephen was rejected for speaking truth, Job’s wife spurned and left him in his darkest hour of need. And then there’s Leah.
Leah was rejected and deemed ‘lesser’ than her sister because she had “soft” eyes! (Genesis 29:17) The only way her father believed she would be married was to trick someone into sleeping with her. Once married, her husband didn’t want her, he loved her sister “much more than Leah”. Leah was someone who understood what it felt like to be rejected, unwanted, despised. She had to live in that place of rejection day in and day out. She strove for affection and acceptance from her spouse but was constantly kept at a distance. And born out of all the rejection and pain was then generational rejection in Joseph’s rejection by his brothers (a whole other story)!
Rejection happens to everyone. Everyone experiences rejection in some way, some form, at some point in their lives.
Even Jesus compassionately empathises. In Him, we have a friend who understands because “he faced all of the same testings we do” (Hebrews 4:15). “He was despised and rejected” (Isaiah 53:3), “He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognise him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.” (John 1:10-11). He faced the ultimate rejection on the cross, crying out to God, “why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46) Jesus understands the pain of rejection. He knows the sting of betrayal. He felt the wounds of discord.
Because he endured it. He endured it so that the lies of rejection could be dealt with once and for all.
Because actually, God is all about acceptance. He is all about welcome. When the world says you are unlovable, God says you are “his own special treasure” (Deuteronomy 7:6) and that he will love “you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). When rejection says you are unwanted, God says you are “set apart” (Deuteronomy 14:2) and “are a chosen people” (1 Peter 2:9). God does not show favouritism (Romans 2:11) with some ‘rating’ as better than others. “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).
Reject the lies of rejection and instead know that you are totally loved (Romans 8:38-39), that God is for you (Romans 8:31), that you are included in his family, chosen and appointed (John 15:16). You are not forsaken (Psalm 94:14), not forgotten (Isaiah 49:15), a member - included - of God’s house (Ephesians 2:19-22). You are beautiful (Psalm 139:4), delighted in and rejoiced over (Zephaniah 3:17). Know too that you are cared for (1 Peter 5:7) and that God hears you: “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” (Psalm 34:17-18)
Don’t listen to the lies of rejection. Whether they are labels others have given you or ones you have claimed for yourself. Don’t dwell in that place. Choose instead to peel them off and listen to the truth of the Father. Choose instead to rise up and serve elsewhere, choose instead to keep applying for those jobs, choose to bestow your friendship on those who need it… In your feeling of rejection and hurt, choose to reach out and accept and include others.
We may well have been rejected by others. But we are never rejected by God. Choose His way.