If someone asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ he will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’ Zechariah 13:6
After many years of living on this earth it seems to me that one of the deepest wounds that most people feel is that of rejection. The contexts that inflict the deepest pain are those that involve relationships and friends. Who has not been wounded in the “house of their friends?”
That “house” may be a marriage or family, a place of work, a church, a mission or any other relational context. For this article I’d like to look at our church family, but the principles discovered may well help in handling rejection in all the contexts mentioned.
We are so very much a body of friends in our churches and mission agencies, but our very nature – our fellowship, has to be closely watched as it in itself has the potential to wound. The happy few, the “Band of Brothers” on a mission, has the potential in changing seasons to inadvertently exclude and reject. New lamps may be exchanged for old, the pioneer personality gives way to organisational maintenance, and a new generation necessarily grows up with a desire to forge ahead rather than interpret the future through their history.
This seems to be the case when we look at Israel’s Biblical history.
After the inspiring leadership of the Patriarchs, Moses and Joshua,
“another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” Judges 2:10
The Lord tested the heart of the new generation by leaving the problem of taking the land of promise. Judges 3:1. Each new generation must prove itself by engaging in battle – the inner and spiritual “Jihad” for our context, and proving character.
Decline inevitably set in and instead of taking full possession of the promise the people were mainly oppressed by their enemies with occasional bursts of revival through various “Judges” who brought the people back to the Lord and their mission.
The great prophet Samuel seems to be one of the last in a long line of Judges. He gave himself to the people wholeheartedly and set them back on track with God. However, like every ministry, he had a sell-by date. He grew old and wanted to appoint his sons as judges, but they lacked the moral fibre of their father, seeking gain rather than God.
“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” 1 Samuel 8:4-5
“You are old!” – For the more silvery haired amongst us the challenge of adapting to a new season, and surviving the rejection of those you have led, can be devastating.
We read in the text that Samuel was “displeased” !
He prayed and the Lord led him to come to terms with the wound of rejection that was eating him up.
“And the LORD told him: Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.” 1 Samuel 8:7
In the end, all of the wounds of rejection that we endure, all the exclusion that we encounter, falls on the ultimately rejected one, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The naked man lifted up on a cross, the rejected God, sucked into himself all our pain of being left out and marginalised.
How did Samuel survive this season and move on to anoint and bless the new “Messianic” season by discerning and nurturing the gifting in the young David? How can I move beyond my own painful rejection and bitter words to become a blessing?
The key is found a few chapters later in 1 Samuel 12:22-25. It seems that after the initial shock, Samuel has come to terms with the fact that nothing is going to prevent this new season emerging. He has found a place of peace. How?
He has chosen to pray for those who rejected him.
“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.” v.23
When we feel rejected we often speak from the wounded overflow of our heart, harshly criticising and judging others. We need to move from this tree of good and evil and feed on the tree of life. Begin to pray and not sin! Then stand and proclaim what is “good and right.”
No easy task, but ultimately the only way to move on and enter a new season.
In fact it seems that the very wound of rejection may even in itself be the catalyst to new beginnings.
At the end of the Gospel of John, on that post resurrection evening, we find Jesus launching His disciples into a new season. He begins by making it very clear that ministry – all living and loving, will involve wounds.
“…he showed them his hands and side.” John 20:20
In an unmistakable visual he is saying, “This is how the Father sent me – to be wounded.”
And, as Jesus may be speaking to you His own disciple today, he continues:
“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” v.21 – The wounding is a new sending!
We need so much help to own this. This is why Jesus breathes on us intimately, allowing us to receive the Comforter – the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit puts the very character of Christ within our own flesh in our own time and culture. He brings healing and the potential to forgive, move on and pray for the “house of my friends.”
“And with that he breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:22-23