No one, no matter how ‘mature’ they are, is impervious to this test of character: ‘Reject me, and I respond, at least in some negative way, against you.’
When rejected—and there are so many ways, and for so many reasons, to feel or be rejected—some will become forlorn and withdraw, others will fight back, dismiss or even attack the rejecter, and others again will laugh at the rejecter’s audacity. But none of these is a loving response.
Very few people are consistently capable of the loving response. Jesus of Nazareth shows the way in this regard; Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and the Reverend Wade Watts have been contemporary disciples.
But we, as a people, struggle with rejection.
We struggle in issuing acceptance—God’s good grace—when we have been defiled and hurt. An ‘eye for an eye’ and a ‘tooth for a tooth’ type of justice works very naturally to us.
Now, some of the critics of Christianity have targeted the impossibility of keeping to the Sermon on the Mount. This is where Jesus introduces this most radical form of love—for fighting the good fight of faith with ‘our enemy’, through love.
Critics of the Sermon on the Mount cannot conceive of it working.
Every Christian, if they are being honest, struggles with it. What Jesus preaches can seem both impossible and illogical. And unless it is tried in faith, and I mean genuinely tried without reservation, we cannot see its power. Yet, we must see to understand.
Two Such Powerful Forces – But Acceptance Is More Powerful
We have briefly touched on the power of rejection, but there is an equally pervasive power: acceptance. These are relational concepts. They happen to us or they happen for us. Or, we cause them to happen to or for others. We also cause them to happen to or for us, ourselves—as we relate most personally with ourselves.
Just as rejection is sweepingly pervasive, contagious in fact, acceptance can become just as radical in its pervasiveness.
When the person truly accepts that Christ, their Saviour, went to the cross, as if only for them, and they know their innate rejection of their Saviour—for, that’s what sin is; a rejection of God—accepting others who reject them is understood; in theory.
Understanding this doesn’t make practicing it any easier, but it does switch on the light of thought.
Understanding this concept, of against-the-flow acceptance in the period of rejection, opens us to an even more powerful concept—that acceptance puts paid to rejection.
Acceptance is more powerful because love is more powerful. Rejection and fear can’t remain where acceptance and love insists on habitation.
But acceptance and love must be underpinned by the full weight of virtue.
The Most Crucial Reason for Discipleship
Why do we even need to be Christian? It is because life will not make sense until we are. Until we take Christ as our Saviour, accepting his death for our sin and his resurrection as our mode for new life, we will not understand this principle for acceptance over rejection. And, as a result, we will always stand to be humiliated.
Who would want that?
At least being Christian helps us understand the theory of acceptance and rejection. The most crucial reason for discipleship is to apply this theory. Our whole lives need to go into it. When we are devoted to practicing this most fundamental of all life skills, life starts to make more sense.
Our whole lives depend on accepting things where we would otherwise feel rejected. Because this comes so unnaturally to us it will take devoted Christian practice, every day for the rest of our lives.
The powers of acceptance and rejection are at the heart of the Gospel. First we understand the theory: to accept those who reject us. Second, we apply. Every single day we apply it. This is as simple as the task of discipleship is: to follow Jesus’ example.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.