Resurrection After Rejection
One of the most painful experiences of any human being is the rejection of love. Like countless other young people, in my youth, I was both victim and perpetrator, being rejected and rejecting. In some cases when the relationship with the girl was serious, the sense of betrayal and hurt was intense. In my years of youth ministry I have heard this story innumerable times.
What has all this to do with Holy Week? The human heart yearns to love and be loved. But what it craves for most is unconditional love, to be valued for who I am at my deepest self. No human being can give me that absolutely, only God can. And how do I begin to know the extent of that love? St Paul answers it:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
This is how much God values us!
Who of us can claim that we were rejected for being perfectly loving all the time? No one – only Jesus can! Yet He experienced rejection big time. After three years of healing, loving, welcoming, teaching, delivering and comforting the people and His disciples, He gets Judas’ treachery, Peter’s denial, the crowds’ mockery and the Romans’ unimagined cruelty. Yet look carefully at the prophetic words of Isaiah:
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows… Surely he took up our infirmities… he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
When it comes to God we are all guilty perpetrators. We are sinners and have sinned. In plain language, you and I are responsible for Jesus’ death on the cross. Sin is terrible indeed. He was pierced for my transgressions. That is Good Friday. The wonderful truth however is that ‘if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness‘ 1John 18-:9.
And there is healing for our deep wounds too. Yes there is life after rejection and with the Lord our suffering is ‘recycled’. Jesus’ death was the pathway to His resurrection and now His resurrection life is available to us. In the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to let go of the hurt, receive His comfort and forgive those who have injured us – whether an ex, our parents, colleagues or close friends.
Through personal prayer, as well as the support of the christian community, the process of healing can actually mature us rather than harden us. We are gently led out of the inner loneliness caused by relationship breakdown or strain and the subsequent ‘closing off’ of our hearts to the love of others. As we go along, our hearts begin to heal and we are able to open up and trust again. It may take time but our love begins to mature. We start to realise that to give ourselves as a gift to others, we need to turn away from selfishness and self-centeredness, our quick fixes and negative way of thinking.
Yet, it is not possible alone. We’ve tried. Real love is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), a cooperative work between God and my freedom. So as we celebrate the most important events in history this week,we need to make sure that they enter the history and story of our own lives. What Jesus has won for us is eternal life in heaven but heaven begins now. It is our choice to live in His grace and to remain in His love. The stakes are high and the alternative is frightening. Yet the Lord has given us everything we need to persevere in the journey. Thank God for Holy Week!