Jesus is very up front with the possibility of rejection as we share the gospel (as well as the possibility of gaining a hearing). Notice Luke 10:16: “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (ESV). See also Matthew 10:40, Mark 9:37, Luke 9:47-48, and John 13:20.
The truth is none of us like to be rejected. It is a deep seated human fear. Maybe that is the reason Jesus addresses the issue so directly. How are we to muster the courage to say a good word for Jesus if we face rejection when we do?
First, these sayings take the focus off us. It is important to ponder this, because it can help us be courageous. If we are rejected in our efforts to the share the faith, we must remember that the rejection is not just of us, it is a rejection of Jesus, and it is a rejection of the Father who sent Jesus. Rejecting me is trivial. I’m one person in 7.6 billion. Rejecting Jesus and the Father is not trivial at all. Yet, the purpose of this life is making a decision about God, the creator. Being confronted with this decision is the most important matter in life whether we like it or not. We can’t control another’s decision, but we can provide the opportunity to choose.
Second, the fear of rejection coincides with not feeling accepted. The Christian, of all people in the world, should feel love and acceptance. “God is love” (1 John 4:8). God has demonstrated his love for us by sending his only Son into the world to be the propitiation for our sins. Because of God’s love for us, Christians are commanded to love one another. Christian community (i.e., the church) should provide for us love and acceptance. The church is the family of God. Fellow Christians are my brothers and sisters in Christ. If my identity is formed around this, I don’t go out into the world wondering whether I belong or am accepted. I should know something of community as God intends it to be. And this acceptance should help me conquer my fear of rejection, because I know a community that everyone should have the opportunity to experience.
Third, we don’t know a person’s response until the message is shared. I’ve met atheists, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus who have become Christians. When you hear their life stories, it is amazing. We might even be tempted to think: I never would have suspected that they would respond to the gospel. And that is exactly the point: we don’t know a person’s response until the message is shared. The decision is for them to make not me.
Further, an initial rejection by someone may not be the last word in this person’s life. Experience teaches that it may take many encounters before a person begins to give serious thought to the gospel. Maybe your encounter with this person is encounter number one. You’ve planted a seed. Others may encourage this person, and maybe on the seventh encounter the person becomes open to study and conversion. Someone planted, another reaped, but every Christian who touched this person’s life had a role in sharing the gospel. Remember that an initial rejection may not be the last word. Maybe it is the first encounter that will lead to a changed life in time.