by Steven Chan
16 August 2009
Have you ever been rejected, refused or turned away? The Bible talks about the subject of rejection.
We read of how Israel rejected God as king. In spite of all the numerous wonders God had performed for His people, Israel in I Samuel 8:7 we read of their rejection of God as their ruler and king; they wanted a king so “that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles” (I Samuel 8:20). In Num 14:22-23, God observed thus about Israel: “all these men … have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice…they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it.” In spite having seen with their own eyes what God had accomplished for them (the incredible walk through the Red Sea as they were pursued by the Egyptians), they nonetheless chose to reject God as king. Their reason apparently was “so that they could be like all the nations around them”. They caved in to peer pressure to conform to those around them.
How sad indeed that God can be rejected just so that one can be just like those around! The Bible tells the Christians in Rom 12:2: “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” – so that “you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life…(Phil 2:15-16).
God expects us to have the courage to be different from those around us – to have God as our Lord and not have some worldly person as our mentor or role model; to have God-given values instead of the values of this world such as “greed is good”, “money is the most important thing”, being accepted by our worldly friends is more important than being an upright and godly person; that worldly success and achievements are far more important than gaining God’s favour and approval in faithfully doing His will; that ingenuity in structuring transactions and deceptive categorisations to evade legal restrictions or obligations is worth far more than transparency and compliance with the spirit or the moral tenor of the legal requirements (the latter being a root cause of the prevailing global financial crisis – resulting in the call today for good corporate governance).
Jesus also experienced rejection by His people. As the prophet Isaiah wrote of Him: “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isa. 53:3). “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). He suffered the ultimate rejection on earth when the crowd cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” (John 19:15). Yet on the cross as they crucified Him, He prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34). But He warns us in John 12:48: “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him–the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.”
Do we reject Jesus because we fear rejection by our friends? In Mark 8:38, Jesus warned: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Will we reject Jesus because we are afraid of being made fun of by our friends and are therefore ashamed of confessing Him as our Lord? The apostle Paul knew that fear and shame may be strong deterrence for us to preach the gospel for he testified in Rom 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
The Bible assures us in Rom 10:11: “For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” The Psalmist prayed to the Lord: “Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live; and do not let me be ashamed of my hope. Hold me up, and I shall be safe…” (Ps 119:116-117). The Lord promised His people in Joel 2:26-27: “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the LORD your God and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame.”
As Christians we should not fear rejection. The world has in the past also rejected God, Jesus, His prophets and apostles. In John 15:18-19, Jesus told His disciples: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” We should not expect the world to be friendly towards us: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4). So do not act surprised if the world rejects you because of your faith in God! But God has promised that we will not be ashamed if we place our hope in Him. In Ps 25:1-3, the Psalmist prayed thus: “To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me. Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed; Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause.”
More importantly, as Christians, have we in words or by our action rejected God or wavered in our faith? The Bible warns us that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables”(2 Tim 4:3-4). The apostle Paul exhorts thus in Titus 1:13-14: “Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth.”
Has anyone of us turned away from the truth? Some have just chosen to walk away from God and His Word because of close affinity with their friends in the world such that they feel that it is not “cool” or “respectable” to talk about the truth about one God, the Creator of the universe; Jesus as the Son of God, the Bible being the Word of God; the One Hope in the Gospel; the One Body, the Church; the One Faith and the One Baptism (Eph 4:4, 5).
The world calls for “inclusivism” where everyone should be accepted and is entitled/ free to believe and practice whatever one chooses – but at the same time, the world demands “exclusiveness” as regards this “inclusivism” – that no one should even be permitted to attempt to bring up for discussion or try to engage in a discussion with another the fact or possibility of truth being “revelational” (meaning revealed by God – Deut 29:29; John 1:17; 17:17; 2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet 1:21) and objective (and not relative or situational; John 8:32;14:6) as that would be viewed as not being “cool”, being judgemental, bigoted (i.e. ‘utterly intolerant of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own’), dogmatic (i.e. ‘asserting opinions in an arrogant manner; opinionated’), arrogant (i.e. it is arrogant to believe that one knows “the” truth; instead the “truth” can only be determined subjectively, depending more on culture, and not on a rigid exegesis of the Scripture – as that would be legalistic and guilty of the sin of bibliolatry), presumptuous/proud/self-righteous (i.e. because they contend that truth depends on how each individual feels about things, not how or what they really are), encroaching, disrespectful or not respecting the personal choice and freedom of others to be left alone and to believe whatever one wants to (as there is no absolute wrong or right beliefs) and possibly fanatical (i.e. ‘motivated or characterized by an extreme, uncritical enthusiasm or zeal’) for good measure! Such is the inconsistency and confusion of the world.
Yet the truth will prevail! The Bible declares in Heb 9:27-28 that “as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” The truth is that we will all die – whether you believe it or otherwise – and inasmuch as that is true, there will be a judgement day – “for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…” (2 Cor 5:10-11) The Bible forewarns us about judgement: “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Rev 20:11-15).
Are we concerned that we ourselves may be rejected by God from entering heaven for all eternity because of our rejection of God in our lives on earth? That rejection has eternal consequences. In Matt 10:28, Jesus warned: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Will you reject God the Creator of the universe and His Love for us when He sent Jesus Christ His only begotten Son to die for us so that we may not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16; Rom 5:8; 2 Cor 5:21; I Pet 2:24)?
(Acknowledgement: Note of appreciation to Sis Peng Lee Lee for contributing some of the insights/lessons in this article)