Our Example’s Example
The fear of rejection is best defined as “remaining silent to preserve a relationship or reputation.” In my conversations with Christians over the years, this root has come across in many different dialects.
What if they turn me down and things get weird?
What if I’m labeled as a “Bible Thumper” or “Jesus Freak” from now on?
What If I feel like a fool because of the way they react?
You probably have your own specific fears surrounding rejection. In fact, this is one of my own personal gaps. I have several neighbors with whom I am hoping to share the gospel, but the gap I’m faced with is “What if I try and they react poorly? I have to live next to this person!” My mind immediately jumps to the worst-case scenario, and I convince myself that the conversation will go as terribly as it possibly could. I worry about my reputation. I worry that I’ll get labeled. Anyone with me?
Let’s start at square one and begin building a foundation that we can return to throughout the rest of this conversation about rejection. Since the beginning of time, God has desired a relationship with His people. Throughout Scripture, we see God pursuing His people and the people struggling to follow Him and Him alone. In the book of Matthew, Jesus shows up on the scene. An angel appears to Joseph and says, “do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”
This Jesus is called Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Christ, the Messiah, has come to earth to be with His people, to save us from our sins, to show us how to live, and to teach the truth of the gospel. God with us? That’s pretty incredible!
We see the life of Jesus on display in the four accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We see how He acts, hear what He teaches, and watch how He responds to all kinds of different situations. In fact, Jesus, the Son of God, is the ultimate example of someone living the way we were intended to live all the way back in the garden of Eden—God’s way.
Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, “For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin.” God the Father, desiring to be intimate with His creation, us, sent His Son to dwell with us, experience our struggles, our pain, our temptation, and our suffering, but to do it all completely without sin.
He came as a baby, not as an emperor. He came in humility (Phil. 2:6-8). Jesus had every right to be heralded as a king but lived a life of humility and dependence on God and His Word.
Why are we taking the time to talk about this in a series on evangelism, you ask? Because it’s here, friends, that we find a monumental truth that we cannot forget when we’re struggling with the fear of rejection. It’s a truth we must hold onto, a truth we need to be reminded of on a regular basis because it is so easy to forget. Ready? Here it is.
We are to be imitators of Jesus Christ in every way: in how we speak, how we think, how we act, how we respond, what we prioritize, and how we view the world around us.
When I use the term, “Christ-followers,” I mean it literally. Jesus called common, everyday people to follow Him. He called them to know Him intimately, then imitate Him in word and deed.
“That’s all very encouraging,” you might think, “but how does that help me and my fear of getting rejected when I share the gospel with a co-worker?” Well, I said we were going to build a foundation, so now that we have, let’s use that foundation to help us with this gap. IF Christ is our ultimate example, and IF He gives us a blueprint for how to live life as children of God, and IF we can trust that He loves us and knows what’s best for us, THEN I think we can have some confidence in what He tells us about being rejected. I love conditional clauses, don’t you? This is where we’re going to find our answer to the fear of rejection: in our Example’s example. What does Jesus have to say about being rejected?
Let’s look at John 15:18. In this passage, Jesus is talking to His disciples, those who have left their homes, jobs, and hobbies to follow Jesus wherever He went. In fact, as we approach verse 18, Jesus is telling them to follow His example of love. He says in John 15:12, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” Quite the statement when made by the perfect, sinless Messiah! But then Jesus says something that seems a little jarring. It’s something we need to hear and understand, and it is so incredibly important in our quest to BUST our fear of rejection.
John 15:18-21—“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.
Wait. Did Jesus just promise that His disciples would be rejected and hated by the world? That can’t be, right? We’re supposed to love people, then they’ll love us back because we were so loving. Surely that must be how it works! And yet, when we read Jesus’ words in this passage, it’s pretty clear. Those who belong to God, who have been adopted into God’s family and are living in this broken world as sons and daughters of the Most High God are promised not acceptance, but rejection.
Stay tuned as we continue to walk through this fear together, unpacking it over the next few weeks. But for now, ponder Jesus’ words, wrestle with the reality that we are only passing through this world, and be ready to dive even deeper because we’re only beginning to BUST the fear of rejection.