I often tell my kids, “If you want to avoid a life of criticism, stay home and sit on your couch. It is when you venture out to help people that you find yourself in the cross-hairs of criticism. Your greatest acts of love will be those that are the most scrutinized.” This proves to be true in the life and ministry of Jesus. When he healed the blind, made the lame walk, and the dead rise, suddenly his critics appeared out of nowhere saying he must be demon possessed. As he walked through this world full of compassion and mercy, there was a constant hum in the background from his opponents that his power had evil at its core. The refrain of the sceptic was so constant that Jesus was characterized as being “despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3a). No one was concerned about Jesus’ self-esteem. There was no one validating his pain. And yet, this rejection did not discourage him in ministry.
I have to ask myself what kept Jesus from depression in the face of such rejection?
Jesus knew which voices to listen to
Jesus did not entrust himself to people or look for their approval (John 2:24-25). He didn’t find himself elated one day based on the number his followers and then in the dumps the next because the same crowd spread lies about him. Jesus was the perfect example of one who “walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1:1). Jesus’ ears were tuned to the voice of his Father rather than those of the leaders of his day. Doing the will of his Father was what sustained Jesus (John 4:34). It was sufficient for Jesus to say, “the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me” (John 5:37). The testimony of his Father was all the approval he needed. Jesus busied himself not with appeasing crowds but with the work that his Father laid out for him. This disposition freed Jesus from the bondage of fretting about what people thought of him.
Jesus was on offense rather than defense
Jesus lived his life on the “offense”, accomplishing the work of his Father, rather than on the “defense”, trying to win the hearts of his opponents. He was the model of the verse, “Do not be overcome with evil but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21). He was busy speaking the truth in love, making disciples, and ministering to the poor. Those goals, regardless of the opposition, were what he lived for.
Jesus had greater compassion for others than for himself
There are numerous accounts in the Gospels of Jesus having compassion on the sick and on the lost: “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them…” (Matt 9:36), “he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick,” (Matt 14:14) “when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said, ‘Do not weep’” (Luke 7:13). Nowhere in the Gospels is it written that Jesus had compassion for himself. This preoccupation of feeling what others feel allowed Jesus to forget about himself.
Jesus knew the skeptics were blinded
Whether people rejected his lifestyle, his teaching, or his choice of friends, Jesus knew that the problem was with his dissenters rather than with him or his message. He said, “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God” (John 8:47). The reason he received such opposition is because people were deaf to the Word of God and blind to all that was good. John 12 explains that even though Jesus did so many signs before the people, they could not believe because they were the fulfillment of a prophecy in Isaiah: “ ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.’ Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him” (John 12:40-41). Jesus knew the prophecy – that those he dealt with on a daily basis were blinded. When rejected, he did not turn inward, he turned to the divine revelation that explained why people were rejecting him.
When we are rejected, will we react like Jesus?
Everyone seeking to do what is good will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). There will always be slander/sceptics/unbelievers, but what will our reaction be? How will we react when we get the highly-charged email? How will we react when people look at our purest works done out of love for God and call them evil?
If we are going to follow in the footsteps of our Savior, we will stop fretting what people say. We will live not putting effort into maintaining a certain image, but we will live seeking to find out what pleases the Father. We will not listen to the scoffers, unbelievers, or sceptics, but instead we will listen to the Father. His approval is sufficient. Further, we will live a life on the offense. We will not sit down, lick our wounds, pack up and go home, but instead we will allow the slander to fuel of our most determined efforts in Kingdom work. We will seek to do good even when that good is considered evil. Also, like Christ we will look into the eyes of those who have it way worse than us, bear their burdens, and seek to feel what they feel. Finally, we will just accept the fact that the rejection we face may not be because of our shortcomings at all. Undeniably, the problem was always with the opponents of Christ. We, as not-yet-perfect believers do have issues, and yet rejection of the Gospel is not always because of our issues. Rejection of the Gospel is often because God has blinded eyes. What freedom this brings for parents of unsaved children, rejected missionaries, and persecuted Christians! We are free to continue loving, serving, sharing the message of Christ, and praying for the Lord to open blind eyes without being consumed with introspection.
May the Lord help us to follow in the footsteps of Christ and live lives flooded with good works because of a Christ-like perspective on people’s rejection of our ministries.