Have you ever experienced the rejection of not being offered a job you really wanted? Maybe you can remember feeling brokenhearted when someone you deeply cared for turned away from you. I can still recall, early in my writing career, receiving my first rejection letters after sending proposals to magazines for articles or to publishers for books I was writing.
No one likes rejection. It hurts. Our egos become bruised, our self-image becomes diminished, and we can even question our place in the world. “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I’m gonna eat some worms!” I never actually did that – do you eat worms raw, like sushi, fried or what? But I still vividly recall the times when I felt unwanted or unneeded.
Even though we’ve all experienced the pain of rejection in one way or another, we still participate in it as we relate to others.
Human history has always had “haves” and “have-nots,” not only in material terms but also in other ways. It might be the pretty girl at school, getting attention from the boys that other girls don’t receive. Or the academic whiz who hardly breaks a sweat to earn straight A’s, while fellow students develop brain cramps struggling to earn a C. Or the natural athlete who excels at multiple sports, while others wish they could demonstrate enough skill to make any team and just ride the bench.
In each scenario, it’s not unusual for the have-nots to feel rejected. Then there are the individuals no one wants to associate with for other reasons. It could be mannerisms, limitations or social standing. Maybe they come from the “wrong side of the tracks.” When you feel rejected, dreams are shattered, ambition fades and initiative dies. There’s probably no worse place to be than without hope.
Interestingly, Jesus Christ was drawn to people like this – the rejects of society that no one else saw of any value or use. Reading through the gospels we encounter many of them: A small cluster of shepherds, hardly members of high Jewish society, who were the first to learn about the birth of the Christ child. The Samaritan woman at the well, who had been married five times and was living with yet another man. Lepers who were literal outcasts, cast out of the cities so they could not “infect” anyone else with their hideous afflictions.
Another woman who was caught in the act of adultery, whom religious leaders believed was deserving of being stoned. Crippled and chronically ill individuals who had hoped in vain for some miraculous healing, or even some compassion from able-bodied people who saw them.
Even the people Jesus chose to be His closest followers were regarded as rejects. There were lowly fishermen like Peter and Andrew, James and John; Matthew and Zacchaeus, Jewish tax collectors who had achieved comfortable lifestyles by working for the Romans and heartlessly oppressing their own people. Thomas, who carried an air of skepticism about many things. Simon the Zealot, who probably had earned a spot on the Romans’ most-wanted list as an insurrectionist.
Someone might say that Jesus Christ in effect established a religion for rejects, even though His teachings were not about religion but about relationships – genuine, life-transforming relationships with the God of all eternity.
Lest we think uncharitably toward any of the above, thinking they were not worthy of the Lord’s love, grace and mercy, it might be a good idea to look in the mirror. Because not one of us is worthy of Him either.
As Romans 3:10-12 so clearly states, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God…there is no one who does good, not even one.” If we ever find ourselves feeling puffed up, as if the Lord really got a bargain when He chose us to become part of His holy family, we only need to reread those verses.
Another nearby passage underscores this truth: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).
We might want to argue, “But look at all the good things I’ve done, the noble causes I’m engaged in. Don’t they count for anything?” The prophet Isaiah essentially says, “Sorry, but no.” “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Imagine approaching God and offering Him some old, oily rags or something even worse.
In God’s sight, it’s not a matter of whether we’ve done more good than bad. It’s only about perfection and holiness, being made acceptable to be in the presence of the perfect, holy God – and that’s possible only through Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross, paying once and for all the unspeakable penalty for our sins.
So, from that perspective, we’re all rejects, not unlike Mary Magdalene, Matthew, the shunned lepers, or dirty shepherds. And yet, despite that reality, we find these exciting words in 1 John 3:1, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
The next verse is even more compelling: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3). As someone has said, if that doesn’t light your fire, your wood must be wet!
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is email@example.com.