I have been immersing myself in the Gospels this past week, desperate to glean further understanding from Jesus. The Holy Spirit seems to always highlight something new and different each time I read the accounts of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. This time around, it’s been the theme of “shaking the dust off my feet” and “not looking back” or dwelling on rejection experiences.
The mandate of Jesus to His disciples, as well as His own example has been so meaningful to me in recent days. Rejection used to be a big struggle for me, but God has brought much healing to those wounded places of my heart. Now, I’d say 99% of the time I really could care less about what people think about me, or the message God has placed within me to share. But it’s been that other 1% that I have so struggled to let go of. Why? Because the 1% has included individuals who I very much wanted to know the real me, to trust the motive of my heart, to heed the message I choose to live out, and at times, to heed the message I have been asked to share directly. The past couple weeks especially, I have struggled to simply let go…allowing God to free my heart from that painful feeling of knowing I have been rejected, in the midst of doing all the good I’ve known to do. But today, as I intently read in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – hanging on every word written about Jesus’ time on earth, or words spoken by Jesus Himself – God did a sweet thing and brought release and healing to my heart. Truly Jesus – the Word – is the Bread of Life. He is the Light that dispels all shadows of darkness. The model of His life gives the blueprint we are to embrace and follow.
Many times when Jesus was teaching and performing miracles, the Pharisees were right there in the midst of the crowds. They appeared to be ‘receiving’ Jesus’ message because they were present and listening. Yet nearly every time, we see the Pharisees thinking to themselves or talking amongst each other, devising ways to trip Jesus up, and ultimately, to kill Him. They were ‘offended’ by His message, even though they were there outwardly receiving it. Bottom line, they were jealous at all the attention Jesus was getting, as well as the power and authority He operated in.
God has graciously given me this illustration of the Pharisees to show how Jesus went through the same thing I feel like I have struggled with; people who outwardly oblige the message God has placed within me to share, yet inwardly they are seething with envy and bitterness. Jesus didn’t let the Pharisees’ actions get to Him. He read their minds and answered their thoughts on occasion, but ultimately He knew their hearts, and He wasn’t going to be bothered by their choice to not accept Him or the message He delivered. Jesus makes it clear what our response is to be when His message through us is not received:
- “If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave” (Matthew 10:14, NLT)
- “If you’re not welcomed, not listened to, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way” (Mark 6:11, MSG)
- “When you enter a town and are not received, go out in the street and say, ‘The only thing we got from you is the dirt on our feet, and we’re giving it back’ “ (Luke 10:10-11, MSG)
When Jesus sent His disciples out, He was in essence warning them… “You ARE going to be rejected…really though, it’s not so much you. It’s what/Who you represent, and the message you have been appointed to deliver. So don’t let your heart get crushed when rejection happens!! I experienced it too!! Just walk away, don’t look back, and go to the next place I’ll send you.”
There is such a bigger picture going on in this world. You and I can’t allow the sting of rejection to trip us up and distract us from what God has planned for our futures. I have chosen to let go…even of the 1% that my heart really wanted to approve of me. I am no longer concerned if people know and accept the real me. I am letting go of the frustration of not understanding why people choose to believe lies and assumptions about me, as opposed to finding out the truth. I want to be like those disciples who obediently spoke the words Jesus told them to speak…and stayed in the places where they were welcome. But the moment they knew they were not welcome they walked away, and never looked back. It is so empowering for today to see what Jesus and His closest followers went through 2,000 years ago, as they proclaimed Truth and lived out love.
I am so grateful for those who have been receptive (both outwardly and inwardly) of messages God has had me speak to them. I have been on both the giving and receiving end of a message from God – neither side is easy. But God always honors the obedient messenger, just as He honors the humble recipient.
Jesus amazes me; there’s no other way to say it. When we take a good look at His life, it is bewildering how poorly He was treated, when all He did was good. Yet He continued to extend love, to the point of dying for all mankind, even His worst enemies. I’m willing to admit that I struggle with Jesus’ instructions in Luke 6:27-30: “ ‘But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back’ ” (NLT). I don’t feel I have any enemies per say. The closest thing I would have to enemies are those who choose to believe and perpetuate lies about me. When I look closely at Jesus’ life, He was rejected and lied about…despised and falsely judged ‘til the moment He left this earth. This rejection wasn’t just from Jesus’ enemies. It was from those who should have known Him best and appreciated Him most…those who had the opportunity to know the truth about Him, yet they chose to believe what they wanted to believe – often because of jealousy and their own personal agendas. Once again, His example is there for us to follow; dying to self, and choosing to extend love to those for whom it is most difficult.
One other thing that was somewhat shocking to me is found in John 6, when Jesus had been teaching the masses: “After this a lot of his disciples left. They no longer wanted to be associated with him. Then Jesus gave the Twelve their chance: ‘Do you also want to leave?’ Peter replied, ’Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God’ ” (vv. 66-67, MSG). What a reminder that even those who had been with Jesus day in and day out, and thus should have known His heart and motives…a large group of them chose to walk away, leaving only the 12 disciples. This is bizarre because all Jesus was ‘guilty’ of was doing good: healing people, feeding the masses, and teaching them truth – but clearly His way of loving was offensive even to those who should have had eyes to see and ears to hear.
I am so grateful that Jesus left an example for me to emulate. I don’t expect to be rejected by people, but neither will I be surprised if it happens…and I will not allow my heart to be so deeply wounded. I want to live with the perspective of my Savior: “ ‘Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit Me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—skip like a lamb, if you like!—for even though they don’t like it, I do…and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this’ ” (Luke 6:22, MSG)
“All heaven applauds”? Wow! I humbly choose to accept the role of messenger of the Most High King; but with this, I choose to shake the dust off my feet when God’s message through me is not received. My heart will not be adversely affected; knowing obedience is the love language of my Heavenly Father. If my actions (and the motive of my heart) have pleased Him, that’s all the matters.
I am also choosing to forgive – daily and even hourly in some cases, when I encounter those who have chosen to believe falsehoods about me. I choose both to bless them, and to count myself blessed that I have been chosen to share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings…of which rejection and false accusation were the greatest. I choose to look forward, embracing my future and all that God has in store for me.
“Jesus told him, ‘Anyone who…looks back
is not fit for the Kingdom of God’ ”
(Luke 9:62, NLT)