I want to take a moment really to sink our teeth into Mark 6:1-6, the text we covered in our last devotional, which was affectionately titled, “God Pooped.” If you haven’t read that one, then be sure to check it out! Let’s cover the same text, but this time, let’s pull from its lessons on rejection. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been rejected plenty in my life. So let’s see how Jesus dealt with rejection. Learning from Jesus, here are ten powerful ways to handle rejection.
- Don’t avoid rejection or live a paranoid life
We’re told right away that Jesus, “…went away from there and came to his hometown” (Mark 6:1). Jesus wasn’t naive, he knew what he was headed for when he decided to go to his hometown. Rather than spending his whole life avoiding the inevitable challenges of life, he faced them head on, for he knew if you’re truly living the way you’re supposed to live, then it’s not possible to live a life free of rejection. Jesus had realistic expectations about being rejected, so it didn’t rile him when it happened, nor did it keep him from taking risks in life.
- Do what you were made to do.
It says that Jesus, “…began to teach in the synagogue” (2). Jesus was born to teach and challenge the status quo, so this is what he did, even if people rejected him for it. If you have a gift and passion, then you have to do it, or else you’ll go crazy.
- Expect people to question you.
Those who heard Jesus said, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?” (2). While none of us will do the kind of astonishing works Jesus did, we will still do things that others question. This is a mark of an authentic life. If people do not question what you are doing, then you’re probably just living a life of the crowd. You’re playing it safe, not doing what you were made to do.
- Embrace your humanity.
Even though Jesus was truly God, he did not take advantage of his divinity, but instead, he embraced his humanity. The people of his hometown accused, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” (3). Jesus was never vexed by their accusations or embarrassed by his humanity. He never said, “No, really, I’m no son of Mary, no brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon…I’m much better than they.” Instead, Jesus embraces his humanity in full, never denying his heritage, skin, weaknesses, and warts. Unfortunately, these days, this is where Chrisitanity tends to flop, but, if you take Jesus seriously, Christianity can really shine. God wants you to embrace your humanity, not be ashamed of it. Are you weak? Embrace your weakness. Struggle with your sexuality? Embrace your homosexuality. Wrestle with conditions, phobias, fears, uncertainties, anxieties, failures, shortcomings, or histories? Embrace them all! We’re not repeating the tired cultural cliche “you do you,” but, instead, we’re trying to get you not to rely on someone else’s version of what it means to be a child of God and help you understand God’s grace, which proclaims to you that God loves you just as you are. God’s grace teaches us to say fuck self-righteousness, I’m going in for Christ’s righteousness. Others may reject you, but you better not, because Jesus doesn’t. Embrace yourself and then take yourself to Jesus to see what to do next.
- Sit back at the table with brother Jesus and enjoy the family resemblance.
People rejected Jesus and if you’re in his family, then you’ll bear this same family resemblance. People will reject you, too. So grab a beer, sit back at the table, and enjoy true fellowship with your brother, Jesus Christ, who was rejected first. “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household” (4).
- Don’t waste your time on those who don’t want what you have.
Because the people rejected the kind of God that Jesus was, he didn’t do that many miracles for them. He didn’t heal as many as he could or teach as much as he was able. Jesus knew not to waste his time and energy on those who rejected him. Likewise, let’s learn from Jesus. Instead of breaking your head trying to win people over, let it go. As Jesus says elsewhere, shake the dust from your feet and move on. Don’t humiliate yourself or let people walk all over you.
- Spend time with and care for those who actually need you.
There were a few in the town who actually needed him and believed in him, so Jesus chose to spend his time and energy with them. “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them” (5). Let’s learn from this! Many might reject you, and I mean many, but not all. Some people still believe in you and need you. In this case, don’t miss the trees for the forest. The masses might reject you and not need you, but that’s no big deal! There are some hurting people around you who need you. It might be a family member, lonely friend, or a pet. If Jesus himself didn’t think too much of himself to care for just a few, then neither should you think you’re too important to care for just a single lonely dog or orphan or senior citizen or neighbor or friend.
- Marvel at how they really reject Jesus, not you.
“And he marveled because of their unbelief” (6). Jesus was amazed at their unbelief. Notice how Jesus did not react. He did not indulge in self-pity, he did not lash back, he did not sulk, he did not get angry, he did not criticize, he did not curse, he did not mock, he did not escape in denial, he did not project this problem elsewhere, he did not get embarrassed, he did not let it ruin his day, he did not cry, he did not minimize their reaction, he did not condescend, and he did not escape to an addiction. Instead, he marveled at their unbelief, which is incredibly instructive to us on how to handle rejection! Now, if you’re being a dick, then that’s one thing, so stop being a dick as soon as possible. But if people are rejecting you when you’re being your authentic self, trying to love them truly from the heart, and they reject you, then all that’s left to do is marvel at their rejection of Jesus. Remember, they are not rejecting you, but Jesus in you, so let your reaction be to marvel at them and don’t take it so personally. Don’t let it destroy your day.
- Realize God’s crucifying grace.
When his hometown rejected him, this was just a foretaste of what was to come, for Jesus was on his way to the cross, to hang between heaven and earth and be rejected by both. In other words, all rejections we experience in life are pointing to the reality of God’s crucifying grace. By letting us experience rejection, God is crucifying our old nature, nailing it to a cross, helping us to shed its power. Therefore, we must learn to embrace rejection, because God is dealing with something in our lives he wishes to kill off.
- Know that you’ll meet Jesus in a special way in rejection.
Finally, when you are rejected, you’ll meet Jesus in deeper and more profound ways. You’ll enter into the fraternity of the rejected. In your rejection, you’ll learn more about Jesus than you could ever learn when the world is all sunshine and rainbows and things are going your way. Rejection is synonymous with Jesus and grace.