Dealing with Rejection from Others

   I had a great time in Washington State last weekend. I spent my entire time west of Puget Sound on the Olympic Peninsula, some of it in Port Orchard and some of it around Port Angeles. A few of us even took an afternoon hike on Saturday through the rain forest to the falls pictured at left. We gathered every night and often talked through the day with people on various stages of the journey—many of them wanting a greater reality in Jesus and a richer body life with others.

 

We talked about so many things, from helping people get focused on Jesus instead of various ‘church’ models to encouraging people to walk in his freedom rather than the expectations and demands of even well-meaning Christians around them who think our dependence is on an institution rather than on Christ. Some people really struggled with things we shared, others embraced them with open hearts knowing that we were only giving voice to things God was already teaching them. I love when that happens.

As I was reading in I Peter 4 this morning in The Message I came across some passages that speak to that directly. Unfortunately we normally only apply them to people in the world:

 

Of course, your old friends don’t understand why you don’t join in with the old gang anymore. But you don’t have to give an account to them. They’re the ones who will be called on the carpet—and before God himself.
 

Then further down that chapter:

 

If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they are on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter. But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought.

 

It’s easy to see these passages as only applicable to those caught up in the rebellious ways of the world, but Jesus also lived this out with people who were caught up in the demanding ways of religion. When the religionists of his day chided him for not fitting into their ways or respecting their authority, he was not swayed. He followed his Father’s voice rather than the jealous cries of his threatened countrymen. One of the hardest hurdles for any of us schooled in religion to get past is no longer to seek the approval of others. People caught up in religion use approval to manipulate people. If you conform to their ways they shower acceptance on you. But if you don’t they heap blame and accusations on you hoping to scare you back into the fold.

 

Peter wanted his readers to remember that it is God that we and our detractors give account to, not each other. If we are following him we will no longer be manipulated by those voices that seek to lure us back into religious obligation or reject our spirituality because it doesn’t conform to their expectations. I love Peter’s reminder in that as well. If you’re suffering the rejection of others because you’re following Christ, then consider yourself fortunate. If, however, you are rejected because you are arrogant, bitter or destructive, then that’s a different matter entirely. Don’t glory in the trouble caused by self, but that which is caused by your life in Jesus and that rejection will only become another tool in his hands to make you more like him.

 

I know how scary and painful it can be to risk friendships like that, but it is the only way to follow him and in the end you’ll also get to find out who your true friends really are. Real friends will support your passion for Jesus even if they don’t understand the way he’s leading you. To live in his fullness we have to follow him instead of playing to the crowd—whether that’s those caught up in the world, or those held captive by religion.

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18 Comments
  1. eddie May 18, 2004 at 5:05 pm

    So true

    I think for a while I took these attacks personally, but each day further removed from this type of Christianity is teaching me to live loved, live free in the Son and embrace who He is. Freedom is wonderful, and I am experiencing a far greater respect for the Lord and His ways than when I followed someone else’ program.

    A friend of mine always reminds me that Christ did not come to take sides – He came to take over.

    Thanks for the encouragement you are!

    ybiC

  2. Messy Christian May 18, 2004 at 5:50 pm

    Hello Wayne, Bruce of YBMT blog pointed me here, and I’m glad that I read this.

    Just yesterday, my best friend of 12 years … "abused" me when I told her that I’m leaving the church we both attended because of false teachings. (My post is here: http://messychristian.blogs.com/messy_christian/2004/05/brave_and_dumb.html)

    She was my best friend of 12 years, and yet she basically implied that I was on dangerous ground because of my attitude (of refusing to be shackled by a religious system and to question man-made laws) and that I’m probably a backslidden Christian.

    I don’t get it. I just want to know Jesus better. I just want to be free of the burdens placed upon me by the insititution. Yet without fail, my ‘good friends’ have condemned me for it.

    Your post is reassuring, but I never thought that the abuse would come from within the church. I guess I’m naive that way.

    A part of me is afraid that they’re right, that I’m apostate now, and I’m backslidding. But my prayer, which I often repeat again and again is: "Teach my your ways, oh Lord! So that I may know you."

    PS: Lovely blog! And I read your articles too. I didn’t know you had a blog. 🙂

  3. eddie May 18, 2004 at 8:05 pm

    So true

    I think for a while I took these attacks personally, but each day further removed from this type of Christianity is teaching me to live loved, live free in the Son and embrace who He is. Freedom is wonderful, and I am experiencing a far greater respect for the Lord and His ways than when I followed someone else’ program.

    A friend of mine always reminds me that Christ did not come to take sides – He came to take over.

    Thanks for the encouragement you are!

    ybiC

  4. Messy Christian May 18, 2004 at 8:50 pm

    Hello Wayne, Bruce of YBMT blog pointed me here, and I’m glad that I read this.

    Just yesterday, my best friend of 12 years … "abused" me when I told her that I’m leaving the church we both attended because of false teachings. (My post is here: http://messychristian.blogs.com/messy_christian/2004/05/brave_and_dumb.html)

    She was my best friend of 12 years, and yet she basically implied that I was on dangerous ground because of my attitude (of refusing to be shackled by a religious system and to question man-made laws) and that I’m probably a backslidden Christian.

    I don’t get it. I just want to know Jesus better. I just want to be free of the burdens placed upon me by the insititution. Yet without fail, my ‘good friends’ have condemned me for it.

    Your post is reassuring, but I never thought that the abuse would come from within the church. I guess I’m naive that way.

    A part of me is afraid that they’re right, that I’m apostate now, and I’m backslidding. But my prayer, which I often repeat again and again is: "Teach my your ways, oh Lord! So that I may know you."

    PS: Lovely blog! And I read your articles too. I didn’t know you had a blog. 🙂

  5. Steve May 19, 2004 at 7:08 am

    I sure have experienced much of what your article here says and I sure can relate to Messy Christian. It is amazing how quickly those in a chuch can avoid you when you ask hard questions and even more amazing how quickly you become a non person to them when you no longer participate in their programs. When any program or any organization stands in the way of solid spiritual relatioinships it is not of the Father. The bottom line always comes back to who do we love the most. Having had a taste of His love, NOTHING, that is NO THING, no organization, no doctrine, no government, no church family and no other relationship can take the place of the one that we so desperately covet with Him. But out of that relationship with Him will come more than we ever gave up. (Matthew 19:29) He is the greatest. Nothing compares to Him. May we all just want the I Am to Be in our life.

  6. Bruce May 19, 2004 at 9:25 am

    It seems that in a church full of humans, human nature often rules the day. And human nature says if you differ in opinion, you are arrogant. If you suggest change, you are bitter. If you decide to part company, you are destructive. It doesn’t seem to matter how gently you communicate, or how genuine your concerns are, or heartfelt your questions… they will see your differences as aggressive and divisive. Their obligation to protect the systems that sustains them, will influence them to isolate, and reject, you. It’s a matter of survival. The system requires compliance.

  7. Steve May 19, 2004 at 10:08 am

    I sure have experienced much of what your article here says and I sure can relate to Messy Christian. It is amazing how quickly those in a chuch can avoid you when you ask hard questions and even more amazing how quickly you become a non person to them when you no longer participate in their programs. When any program or any organization stands in the way of solid spiritual relatioinships it is not of the Father. The bottom line always comes back to who do we love the most. Having had a taste of His love, NOTHING, that is NO THING, no organization, no doctrine, no government, no church family and no other relationship can take the place of the one that we so desperately covet with Him. But out of that relationship with Him will come more than we ever gave up. (Matthew 19:29) He is the greatest. Nothing compares to Him. May we all just want the I Am to Be in our life.

  8. Bruce May 19, 2004 at 12:25 pm

    It seems that in a church full of humans, human nature often rules the day. And human nature says if you differ in opinion, you are arrogant. If you suggest change, you are bitter. If you decide to part company, you are destructive. It doesn’t seem to matter how gently you communicate, or how genuine your concerns are, or heartfelt your questions… they will see your differences as aggressive and divisive. Their obligation to protect the systems that sustains them, will influence them to isolate, and reject, you. It’s a matter of survival. The system requires compliance.

  9. Donna W. May 19, 2004 at 12:35 pm

    Well said Bruce,

    This is how it is for me also, so many I thought were friends were not when things got tight. I so miss having someone with whom I can confide my deepest feelings. However I would go through it all again before I would compromise my new found freedom in Christ.

  10. Donna W. May 19, 2004 at 3:35 pm

    Well said Bruce,

    This is how it is for me also, so many I thought were friends were not when things got tight. I so miss having someone with whom I can confide my deepest feelings. However I would go through it all again before I would compromise my new found freedom in Christ.

  11. Steve May 20, 2004 at 5:46 am

    Right on Donna. One of the hardest parts of the decision to leave the institution was the fear of rejection and alienation that I knew would be coming. I might not have agreeded with these brothers and sisters. But I still loved them and wanted them to love me. What I am finding now is that because I was willing to give them up for Him, He is now filling the gap with new friends, maybe not acrosss the street, but friends nevertheless. And thanks to their input, I aml earning to appreciate what I do have more than what I don’t have and I have so very much in Him.

  12. Steve May 20, 2004 at 8:46 am

    Right on Donna. One of the hardest parts of the decision to leave the institution was the fear of rejection and alienation that I knew would be coming. I might not have agreeded with these brothers and sisters. But I still loved them and wanted them to love me. What I am finding now is that because I was willing to give them up for Him, He is now filling the gap with new friends, maybe not acrosss the street, but friends nevertheless. And thanks to their input, I aml earning to appreciate what I do have more than what I don’t have and I have so very much in Him.

  13. Mary L. Clark May 24, 2004 at 5:48 am

    I don’t believe it is strange that I find myself in this place where many have experienced the onslaught of rejection by the church. When I went through the experience of church abuse I pointed fingers to disclose my emotional state to be shakened. It truly affected my entire family and resulted in the division of my marriage. Why was that? After we know how dysfunctional the church is, where do we go from there? I had to ask myself….what drew me to people or organizations as such? I found myself leaving and saying I will NEVER attached myself to this craziness again. But I found myself being pulled back. It wasn’t the same house but needy, and hurting people. Yes, right in the church. I would have never imagined a pastor, a congregation that held a leader as God Himself. Why didn’t I see this before? God gave me all warnings, but I ignored every last one. That told me SOMETHING about me! I continue to examine myself.

  14. Mary L. Clark May 24, 2004 at 8:48 am

    I don’t believe it is strange that I find myself in this place where many have experienced the onslaught of rejection by the church. When I went through the experience of church abuse I pointed fingers to disclose my emotional state to be shakened. It truly affected my entire family and resulted in the division of my marriage. Why was that? After we know how dysfunctional the church is, where do we go from there? I had to ask myself….what drew me to people or organizations as such? I found myself leaving and saying I will NEVER attached myself to this craziness again. But I found myself being pulled back. It wasn’t the same house but needy, and hurting people. Yes, right in the church. I would have never imagined a pastor, a congregation that held a leader as God Himself. Why didn’t I see this before? God gave me all warnings, but I ignored every last one. That told me SOMETHING about me! I continue to examine myself.

  15. Mel Brancher December 17, 2004 at 10:26 am

    Dealing with rejection from Christians seems to be the hardest of all. I work in an all-Christian environment (a Christian school). One lady has been very welcoming, encouraging and helpful, and I thank the Lord for her. But from the others I have barely had a hello. It is demoralising. I’m not a qualified teacher but I am filling a gap until they find one and I am good at my job – working harder than most to make up for my lack of official qualifications. We expect to deal with rejection from ‘the world’ but from fellow believers? It is hard.

  16. Mel Brancher December 17, 2004 at 1:26 pm

    Dealing with rejection from Christians seems to be the hardest of all. I work in an all-Christian environment (a Christian school). One lady has been very welcoming, encouraging and helpful, and I thank the Lord for her. But from the others I have barely had a hello. It is demoralising. I’m not a qualified teacher but I am filling a gap until they find one and I am good at my job – working harder than most to make up for my lack of official qualifications. We expect to deal with rejection from ‘the world’ but from fellow believers? It is hard.

  17. Diana June 5, 2005 at 10:24 pm

    Wow, superb!

    Thanks.

  18. Diana June 6, 2005 at 1:24 am

    Wow, superb!

    Thanks.

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