One of the most difficult things to experience in life is rejection. And one of the most painful rejections is when your family rejects you because of your faith. Jesus knew this kind of pain because both His family and community rejected Him and His teachings.
For not even His brothers were believing in Him.
- John 7:5
And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household."
- Matthew 13:57
We can see in His life however how He not only dealt with this rejection but overcame it to win disciples nevertheless.
1. He accepted it
Things hurt less when we are prepared for them and Jesus knew that obtaining credibility for something new from people who know us, like our families, is very difficult.
They had seen Him as a child and young man and had trouble visualizing who He really was. They clung to the image that they were familiar and comfortable with rather than accept the new identity which would force them to change. You see, it is okay for you to change but when the change in you requires a change in other, people feel uncomfortable, especially family and friends.
Jesus understood this and although He was prepared to preach and teach them, He was ready for the rejection because He knew of the difficulty in reaching one's own, even when you are the Son of God. This should be of comfort to us when we feel guilty because we seem to have so little influence with those who are closest to us.
2. He focused on the rewards of rejection not the pain
Peter felt lonely in the fact that he had been separated from his home and family because of his faith in Jesus. Jesus reminds him that being rejected by one's family because of Christ is not something that goes unnoticed by God.
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.
- Matthew 19:29
Following Jesus has never been easy and one of the costs has traditionally been estrangement from one's unbelieving family or friends. Jesus makes it plain: the reward for choosing family and friends is that you remain part of that circle and continue to receive its approval for a while. The rewards for following Christ are the creation of a new circle of family and friends plus you get to live forever with them.
3. He knew that there would be other messengers
The very people that rejected Him because He was a hometown boy would get another chance to hear the very same gospel from other messengers. The Apostles would preach and the early saints would bring the message through this region again in years to come (Acts 8:1-4).
Many times we think because it is our family or our friends that we are the only ones who know how to speak to them about the Lord. In doing this we take on a great burden of responsibility that is unnecessary. I am not saying that it is not important to share our faith with our family and friends. But some think they and only they are responsible or able to bring their loved ones to Christ.
It was not anyone in Paul's family who brought him to Christ; no one in the eunuch's family that converted him... The power of salvation is in the gospel, not in the person, even if that person is related. God has many messengers, and sometimes the best messenger is not you.
When you are not succeeding in bringing your loved ones to Christ do not feel guilty or give up hope: pray that God will find another messenger or another way to bring the gospel to the people close to you.
One thing is sure, however, no one is more eager to save your family or friends than God is and no one has suffered more rejection than He has. And yet, because of His great love and patience, God continues to offer His forgiveness and salvation to all who would come.
- What is the typical way that you, personally, handle rejection? Why in this way?
- Have you ever been in a situation where you were the one rejecting someone else? How did that go? Were you able to soften the blow? How?
- How do you maintain a relationship with someone who has rejected your attempts to share your faith with them?
- Which do you fear most when evangelizing others - rejection by men or women? Why?
- In your experience, what lessons have you learned from being rejected for Christ's sake?