read Luke 20. There are times in life when we feel rejected. Sometimes, we’re imagining things. We’re tired, hungry or grieving, and we slip into thinking that no one loves us. Other times, we’re imagining nothing. We have been rejected. “It’s their issue,” a friend of mine always says when someone rejects me. Really? Because it feels like my issue. We don’t know why they reject us; we will probably never know. But it hurts deeply, whether you know the reason or not.
So when God himself arrived on the scene in human form, it’s strange to think about the fact that He, too, was rejected. Most of us have heard this part of the story so many times, we gloss over it. But think about it. God made us. He came to earth to save us – and we rejected him. Even people who loved him rejected him when he went to the cross. Jesus was God, but he was also fully human. Rejection hurts. It must have hurt God, too. We see his pain on the cross, but we don’t see it here in the 20th chapter of Luke. Instead, we see a man handling rejection with so much wisdom that he stuns his accusers. But while wisdom can help you handle people, it doesn’t take away the hurt.
The doctor who wrote the gospel of Luke is a beautiful writer. He speeds us through multiple events, in an engaging way, and we have to slow down in order to take in the full extent of the rejection he is describing here. In Luke 20 we see people testing God, questioning Him, questioning His authority, and trying to trick Him. Jesus even tells a parable about rejection – which ends in death for the son.
So how can Jesus quote this passage from the Hebrew Scriptures about rejection, even as he was in the midst of the pain of rejection: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ Everyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on”?
How can the rejected stone become the most important stone? Is there anything good about rejection? Is there anything so good about rejection that it turns straw into gold, Rumplestiltskin-like?
Apparently yes. In Jesus’ case, He bore the shame of the cross out of love for us. We can cling to our knowledge of that in moments of our own pain, and know that all will be well. God loves us, no matter what. God loves us when our parents reject us, our siblings, our friends, our children, acquaintances, strangers, and even passing dogs. God was rejected to bring us home.
But Jesus’ words cut even deeper. God seems to take the rejected and lift them up. It’s as if when we are rejected, we are experiencing mini-crucifixions of our own. And yes, God brings good out of bad. Yes, when we are in pain we are more likely to reach out to God – and find Him there as He always is. But it’s as if there’s something actually redemptive about suffering. There’s some kind of refining fire that burns through our souls, and lets the good in us rise up out of the ashes of our pain. There’s something good about suffering – a fact my father used to tell me when I was young, and I scoffed at. But we scoffers can be brought through our own refining fires into understanding what our elders have already experienced. Ask anyone who has suffered, and if they have clung to Christ through their suffering, they will get a faraway look in their eyes, and say, “you know, I don’t regret anything in my life at all, not even the bad things. I would never want to go through the bad things again. I wouldn’t wish them upon myself, but God did somehow redeem them” How? God comes searing in to the deepest places of pain, and works something supernatural through it.
I don’t really know, but I think the reason rejection allows each of us to become the cornerstone is because of God’s love. God comes in when everyone else in the entire world abandons us, and says, “you are the most important person in the world to me. I am going to build mansions on the back of this very thing you’ve suffered. I’m going to bless you through it. I will use this to bless others. And as you bless others with the blessings I give you, you will feel, deeply, how you’ve become a part of me, and my plan of redemption, and it will draw you more deeply into the world of light, the place you’ve always wanted to live, but never knew how to reach.”
We fear rejection. It feels uncomfortable to us, like an ill-fitting coat. We can obsess about people who have rejected us. We can work extra hard, smile extra wide, and try to persuade them how great we are. But it never really works. There is another way – the way of the cross. It’s not an easy way. There’s no simple path to restoration. But when we’re in pain, we can walk around inside of it, cry out to the living God from the midst of it, and allow God himself to come in and comfort us. God knows what we’re feeling. He’s been rejected, too. He knows, and just as He used His rejection to save the world, He will use our rejection for His glory. Somehow in the very moment we sigh in despair, sinking into ourselves, drowning in self-pity – if we ask, seek and knock at God’s door, we discover instead, that something supernatural has happened. We will find ourselves leaping like calves released from the stall. It’s a process that happens over and over, throughout our lives, but each time it brings us closer to the Lord of Love.
And when he draws us in, and makes the rejected feel beautiful, He gives us a heart to love others, really love them. Even when we see the very people who rejected us, we feel so much love overflowing we wish them only blessings, not harm. They might look at us in wonder, wishing they could have what we have – and the good news is, they can. It’s anyone’s for the asking. It’s everyone’s for the seeking. It’s available to all who knock – but we can’t knock lightly. We have to pound on the door. It has to be the right door – a simple unadorned wooden door, full of nails.
That door will be swung open from the inside, and we will be welcomed. We will find inside our true family, united through Christ’s death on the cross. All we need to go through that door is our need. God will supply the rest out of his glorious riches, until he brings us home to the place where there is no more rejection, only arms open wide.
posted by Caroline Coleman in carolinecolemanbooks.com on February 21, 2012