Have you ever been rejected, whether for a job or to a join a group? Have you ever attended an event or a party and felt you just weren’t being accepted? Maybe you have even been angrily, painfully rejected by another person? How painful is rejection. It tears at our heart and our confidence when we are rejected by those who are supposed to love us. Rejection often leads to isolation; we are fearful that it will happen again, we withdraw from people and situations where there is a potential for rejection. We withdraw both emotionally and sometimes physically from situations and events. In response to rejection by men, we reject the world.
A dear colleague of mine called excitedly a few years ago to tell me that he had accepted Christ as is Savior. I was thrilled for him! I was also thrilled that he called me to let me know. I was also afraid for him in the early days of his belief, before his faith had been given time to grow. Why was I fearful? Because it is so easy for man to disappoint and reject the new believer, especially in the church.
What? You are appalled that I would say that?! The church wants new believers. Yes they/we do, but our behaviors after someone is saved often seem like rejection. Here are a few examples of what my friend went through as a new believer at the church where he was saved:
• He wanted to join the choir. They gave him an application and told him to call to schedule tryouts. Once he tried out then the panel of judges would decide if he could be part of the choir.
• He then tried to join the musicians group, as a professional musician who had performed for years and played multiple instruments including guitar, bass, and banjo. He could get started right away but was answered with “Here is the application and we will be having tryouts in the fall. We look forward to hearing your audition and the panel of judges will let you know…”
• He decided that as a new believer, he had a lot to learn. He volunteered to help with the outreach mission by going to the homes of those in need in the community to work on repairing homes, etc. He was good with a hammer and nails, and he could work in the community alongside the Believers who had known Christ for years. Again he was answered, “Here is your application. Please fill out your experience in mission work and carpentry and our application will be reviewed and the head of the group will let you know ‘if we need someone like you’ in our group…”
To come to God and accept Christ as your Savior, no application is required. All are welcome. All are forgiven. All are expected to serve in His Service thereafter. Man, on the other hand, has “standards” and you must apply to see if you are “good” enough.
My colleague called me about three months after the first call asking to get together. I met with him the next day. He detailed the series of rejections for me, as well as the hurt and pain, the suffering, and the acceptance that this “church” was not for him. It was heartbreaking, but thank God his faith remained unbroken, because I had spoken to him of how he should not confuse a church and its people, men, with God and Jesus Christ. Loving, eternal, and inclusive, God/Christ does not reject the true believer who wants to follow Him. God has open arms for His children who come to him in repentance and He accepts them holy as they are to Him.
Why did I warn him about rejection? Because as I travelled around the country moving for my job, I frequently moved to new communities and would look for a church. Each of these moves and searches began to fill me with trepidation about the search. Often these experiences would involve rejection of me as person: “not from here are you?” or ”our church is a church of X; we don’t believe you quite fit here.” Or ”Find a church in your community…” And the worst experience? Enter a church, sit down in the pew, and not have a soul acknowledge your presence … not even the minister.
I am firm in my belief in God’s direction to come together as a group of believers, and that we are stronger when we do. But we need to be aware of our foibles and actions that they not lead to rejection of another believer who is in the Word and following God because of appearance, background or “rules” we are creating for how “our church” is going to do things.
Personally I cannot carry a tune in a bucket. I would never think to inflict my “joyful noise” in the choir, but someone else may wish to sing and they may not be that good. Well, don’t give them a solo, but give them welcome.
Check your heart. Examine your practices. Is there a Welcome Mat in front of your door or are you letting in only the “righteous”?
Mark 9:12 (NKJV)
12 Then He answered and told them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and restores all things. And how is it written concerning the Son of Man, that He must suffer many things and be treated with contempt?
Matthew 21:42 (NKJV)
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’ ?
Luke 14:12 (NKJV)
12 Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid.
Luke 14:15 (NKJV): Parable of the Great Supper
15 Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
16 Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, 17 and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ 18 But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ 20 Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ 23 Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’ ”