I think rejection is probably one of the most uncomfortable and painful things we have to deal with as we navigate the maze of human relationships.
Whether it's being let down gently in a text by a boyfriend or girlfriend, being talked to rudely by a customer, disregarded by an old friend, criticised by a manager or leader, hurt by your spouse or close friend. Rejection hurts. I mean it really hurts.
And it makes us do crazy things. Maybe you're a hedgehog when it comes to conflict so you go into a big stew, put your protective prickles up and shut everyone out. You hide under the covers or go to some destructive behaviour to numb the feeling of hurt. Or you could be a rhino, you react with a curt word, a rude reply, maybe a volcano of anger erupts and you let it rip on those you love the most. Whatever the way you deal with rejection - Jesus invites us to get a handle on it.
As a church community at Foyle Vineyard we're looking at how God's beautiful message and presence is made available through invitation. And this invitation is for anyone who wants to respond. And God goes to extreme lengths to make this life available to us - sending Jesus as His greatest act of mercy. And yet it opened Him to rejection. Jesus' life is an example of continually rejection to the extreme, culminating in the events that led to the cross. That's vulnerability right there.
So what about us? How do we deal with rejection and get a handle on it?
Well, Jesus says if we follow Him and live in obedience to Him we're going to experience rejection (Matt 5:10-11). And I'm not talking about being rejected for being rude or weirdly religious or irrelevant but rejected for living out the example of Jesus and making the invitation to others to receive His kingdom life. We shouldn't be surprised or afraid of it.
And, if we want to be grow in becoming more invitational to others, sometimes we're going to experience rejection - it may be a polite 'no, thank you' or much more abrasive. Either way it will still sting a little (or a lot).
One place to start is to follow Jesus' encouragement to maintain your peace - don't let the peace that Christ has given you be stolen by the person who rejects you. Shake it off and let the peace that God has given to you return to you (read Luke 10). Then go on to the next town (metaphorically speaking) and make the invitation to someone else.
Second, root you life in the love and acceptance of Christ. He has fully accepted you without restriction, there's nothing about you that He finds unacceptable because of what He did for you on the cross. Don't get sucked into a cycle of thinking that makes you feel like God dislikes or rejects you - it's simply not true.
Third, receive the healing of the Holy Spirit. He's the best at this - an expert transformer of wounded hurts. With our kids we call it a 'God Swap'. Get a moment alone somewhere and swap the hurt you feel for the healing acceptance of the Spirit. Do a 'God Swap'.
Fourth, take a deep breath in and determine forcefully in your heart and mind to continue to offer out the invitation regardless of what the response might be. Risk and courage are necessary virtues in the life of a Jesus follower.
Fifth, don't be vulnerable with those who will bulldoze over your heart, provide some protection where it depends on you and only share the deepest parts of you with those who have earned your trust (Matt 7:6).
So Jesus, today I pray for the courage and boldness to offer your invitation to life in lots of small and significant ways. Amen