We are all subject to the fear of rejection. People brace themselves for it. Nobody likes rejection because we take it personally. You may have heard words from others such as “I don’t want you,” “You don’t measure up,” “You shouldn’t be here.” After you have a few of these experiences, you learn to shut down. You learn not to open up. You learn not to let others get close to you. You set safety parameters in your life that prevent you from getting in the “hurt zone.” In the process, however, you become a shell of a person. You limit your relationships, but you protect yourself from deep hurt. You feel safer but less connected. You never develop deep friendships. You never really open up to your spouse because to really know you is to reject you. At least that is what you think. You never let yourself get hurt, but you also never let yourself be loved.
There is a very funny scene in the Lego Batman movie. The Joker once again presents Batman with a dilemma. Batman has to choose between saving Gotham and apprehending the Joker. During a conversation, the Joker refers to himself as Batman’s greatest enemy. Batman, however, quickly lets the Joker know that he is not his greatest enemy, which devastates the Joker. He feels so much rejection that he begins to cry. I know it’s just a cartoon but it perfectly illustrates the sting of rejection and why nobody (even the Joker) wants to be rejected.
What does the Bible say about the fear of rejection? How can our relationship with Jesus Christ help us to overcome this fear? Is it possible to be so secure in our relationship with God that we are able to extend ourselves to others even with the potential of great hurt? Obviously, I’m asking these questions in order to give the resounding answer of “Yes!” Rejection by others does not change who we are in Christ. Our true identity remains intact.
Before we can dive any deeper, we need to get a good definition of “rejection.” Here are some of the ways that Webster’s Dictionary defines it: “to refuse to accept, to cast off, throw back, to spew out.” These are not nice words when it comes to relationships. Rejection is when someone does not want you and they turn you down. However, does someone’s rejection of us change who we are? Because of human nature, it is necessary for us to find our identity based upon how God views us. Ephesians 1:3-6 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Get a load of that! We are blessed, chosen, adopted and accepted by God. These are great words of comfort that nobody can take away.
We are taught at an early age that Jesus loves us “because the Bible tells me so.” The one who knows us best loves us most. He has chosen us and has made us a part of His family. Psalm 139:13-16 informs us that God has perfect knowledge of us. He knows us better than we know ourselves and yet He still chooses us. As we fully grasp His love for us, our fear of rejection falls by the wayside. First John 4:18-19 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.” God loves us and His love is amazing.
Very few people can match Max Lucado’s penchant for using just the right words to explain incredible truths. In describing how much God loves us, he says, “If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning… Face it, friend He is crazy about you.” Wow! God loves us in ways that we have trouble comprehending. If He can love us, then we can risk loving others, even if that love exposes us to hurt and rejection. Years ago, Bill and Gloria Gaither penned a song titled, “I Am Loved.” In this song the lyrics say, “I am loved. I am loved. I can risk loving you. For the One who knows me best loves me most.” To understand the love God has for us is to equip ourselves with an increased capacity to love others. In the same way that God has loved us, we are to reach out and love others. In John 15:12, Jesus says, “This is My commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.” God provides the secure foundation for us to be able to reach out and love someone else.
Just so no one is under a false impression, there is a sting that does come from rejection. When you put yourself out there to love others, it still stings when someone rejects you for whatever reason. However, Jesus knows the sting of rejection. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote about the coming rejection that would be experienced by the Messiah. He says, “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). John, a New Testament writer, says of Jesus, “He came to His own and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). Jesus’ own hometown of Nazareth rejected His ministry. They refused to believe His claims to be the Messiah. His own nation turned Him over to the Romans to be crucified. They preferred to have a confirmed criminal, Barabbas, to be released instead of Him.
The Apostle Paul is another Bible personality who experienced much rejection and yet he still loved and reached out to others. Paul started the church in Corinth on his second missionary journey. He poured out a year and a half of his life for that congregation. Yet, when Paul left, there would be those in the church who would easily turn against him. Some would bring false accusations against him. They assailed his motives and his ministry. Paul had to defend himself to those he considered friends. He tells them in 2 Corinthians 6:11 that his heart is wide opened to them. He has not closed them off. He has not shut down. He is still emotionally vested in his relationship to them. Later he says, “the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved” (2 Corinthians 12:15). He experienced the sting of unreciprocated love. The more vulnerable he made himself to them the less love they showed him- and it hurt.
If you live long enough, you will suffer rejection at the hand of someone. But don’t let rejection have a hardening effect on you. Remember your identity is in Christ. You are loved. You are accepted. Turn the sting of rejection over to Christ. He’s been there, he’s done that, and He has the scars to prove it.