Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Choosing Rejection

I am rejected on almost a daily basis. I make it my personal mission to get at least one person off the treadmill and into my class when I teach at the gym. However, this doesn't come without some rolled eyes, rude comments and being obviously ignored.

But it really doesn't bother me. The people who reject me...I don't know what's going on in their life or what their day has been like. What I do know is that I am certified in great formats that promise a better workout than they could do themselves and that the people in my classes would make awesome workout buddies. When they don't come to my class, I don't really focus on their rejection of me. It's not personal. They don't know me. I just regret that they are cheating themselves.

I've developed a similar philosophy with sharing the Gospel. I memorized Luke 10:16 at a young age, so I've always known that when I share the opportunity of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and it is rejected, they are not rejecting me, but rejecting God. Yet, I really got a peace in my heart with this issue while reading Acts 18.

Paul was testifying that Jesus was the Son of God in the synagogue at Corinth when the Jews opposed Him and became abusive. Paul "shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, 'Your blood me on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on, I will go to the Gentiles.' Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshipper of God. Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized" (Acts 18:6-7).

Paul didn't waste time arguing with them. He didn't take a long walk to blow off steam and gather his composure. He simply shared what the Lord had laid on his heart in the synagogue. When the Jews rejected him, he simply walked next door and shared with someone else.

While I seem to have a grasp on this type of rejection, there is another rejection that I don't handle as well. It's the rejection of those that are closest to me - whether blood family or friends that are as close as family - that type of rejection crushes my soul. It tears me up so much that almost daily, I pray for peace in my close relationships.

God has blessed me with an incredible support system on this earth, so I haven't had to experience this type of rejection much, but each time it has happened, it rips me apart. The situations vary, but the issue remains the same. Their actions communicate that they value something else more than their relationship with me.

First of all, let me say that I don't expect to be the first priority in anyone's life. God should always come first, and immediate family comes next. I am second priority only to my husband. For everyone else in my life, I fall third or after in their list of priorities. That's not hard for me to deal with. That simply lets me know that their values are in order.

When it gets tough is when the actions of someone I love deeply convey they value me somewhere after having highlighted hair or that can make time for me as long as it is convenient for them. I know for a fact they would never list their priorities this way, but actions prove stronger than words every time. Gandhi was right when he said, "Actions express priorities."

The last time I experienced this, I was praying for someone who had rejected me. Deeply wounded in my heart, I came before the Lord in tears, just praying for the words to say. Wanting the God of comfort, I cried out for His understanding.

I got what I prayed for, but it wasn't what I expected. I wanted His understanding in my personal situation. I wanted empathy for the person who had hurt me, but what I got went way beyond that.

God simply said, "Michelle, the piercing that you feel in your heart right now, that gut-wrenching pain of the rejection of someone that you love so much and feel like you would do anything for...that's just a piece of what you've done to Me."

The rejection I felt was numbed by the guilt of knowing that my Father's words were true. He created a beautiful world for me to live in. He knit me together in my mother's womb and gave me a purpose. And He sent His only Son to die for me.

Yet sometimes, I watch TV in place of having personal time with Him. I save my prayer time until the very end of the day when I am exhausted, and I fall asleep halfway through my first sentence. Or I take time to pray to Him, telling Him everthing I desire, but I immediately move on to the next activity, not leaving time to listen for His reponse.

Now, my personal rejection seemed insignificant in comparison to Jesus' sacrifice. He was cruicified by the very ones He came to save. His closest friends couldn't even stay awake to pray for Him on the hardest day of His life. One of his disciples who had been with him since the beginning of his ministry was willing to betray him for just 30 pieces of silver.

As I child, my pastor frequently reminded us, "If you want to know what your priorities are, check your calendar and check your checkbook." Of course, I would never say out loud that watching 24 or The Office is more important to me than reading God's Word, but sometimes, that's what my actions convey to my God. I would never list working out as more important to me than my relationship with Christ, but in a given month, I wonder what my bank statement shows.

This series of events sparked a conversation between my husband and me about our financial and scheduling decisions. James and I are not financially well off by any stretch of the means. With both of us juggling careers, ministry and the last year of our master's degrees, time is scarce too. And the decisions we make on how to spend our money and our time probably will never make sense to nonbelievers.

But it gets even tougher than that. There are only two categories of people when it comes to God - those who are His children and those who are not. God's Word tells us that the gate that leads to eternal life is narrow, and few will find it (Matthew 7:14). A few verses later, He gives an analogy that a good tree cannot produce bad fruit, meaning the way we live our lives is evidence of our relationship with Jesus (Matthew 7:16-20).

In the church, though, we don't talk about that much. We don't dwell on the truth of God's words in Revelation 3:15-16: "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth."

When someone makes a decision to be radically sold out for Jesus Christ, it comes with incredible blessings. Gifts from God trump anything that we could ever recieve from anyone else. But identifying yourself with Him also comes with division (Luke 12:51). Chooisng to follow Christ will not only draw lines between those who are hot and others who are cold, but it will stir up conflicted values and priorities among those who are hot and those who are lukewarm.

I am no longer praying for peace. I am praying that God will kindle a fire in my life and in the lives of my family and friends for Him. We are imperfect people, and it is only in drawing near to the Father and allowing Him to move through us that our hearts will be aligned with His.

I realize that the chance that everyone I am close to having similar convictions is slim to none. But I am praying that I will be strong enough to withstand the rejection when it comes and that I will become more in line with Christ with each day that passes.

Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 4 have challenged me while God has been teaching me about this lately, so I leave you with this passage, hoping His Word speaks to you as it has encouraged me.

So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over against another. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings—and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.

I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children. Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.

Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?


Jerrod B. said...

I love Paul... what a strong man in Christ! Thank you for sharing your heart. I have been hot and lukewarm, I have rejected and been rejected. It makes me sick to think of the way I have acted in my life, Hebrews 10:26 burns my soul yet, if a man sins 7x77 in a day we are to forgive. Jesus will finish the work he started! I have hope in that... but I remember he did not come to bring peace but a sword! (matthew 10:24) I pray I fight for Him and not my our selfish motives.... thank you again and God bless you as you are taken from glory to glory for the universe to see.

Taylor said...

You're a great writer!! I know exactly what you're saying in regards to the spiritual aspect. It's so hard to number one, grasp the fact that our creater could spit someone out of his mouth but two that most christian know that and are okay with it!!! This had GOT to change!! How are we going to make disciples of all nations if we keep our mouths shut? Not saying we have to be disrespectful, but as you said abotu Paul, he just said what he had to say. And that was that. And things happened. I think if everyone got off the "To each his own" mindset, this world could have a great change. As odd as this sounds seeing I just quoted a very new age saying"Be the change in the world you want to see." It starts with us.