This could be the most discouraging word in the English language. Many have had the experience of applying at a college or university and then seeing ‘REJECTED’ staring at them from the reply letter. People are rejected when they apply for loans, for jobs, for teams, even for military service and volunteer work. Sometimes rejection is subtle, like when we’re not invited, but it hurts just as much. Childhood rejection is one of those things that leaves lasting scars – it is fear of rejection by our peer group that most terrifies us during adolescence – being rejected by a loved one is one of the most devastating experiences of adult life. Unlike ‘defeat’ which is temporary and often inspires greater effort for the next attempt, rejection is a door slammed in the face, a “go away, you’re not worth bothering with” kind of feeling. A defeated team may grow in the shared bonds of comradeship as they prepare for the next effort, but rejection is usually solo pain – standing on the sidelines by oneself. At one time or another, we’ve all had a taste of rejection – and it’s lonely.
In His time on this earth, Jesus experienced all of the human emotions, and rejection was certainly one of the most painful. Not only was Jesus rejected by the ‘establishment’ big shots, by the community He grew up in, and by the people He was helping, but even His closest associates betrayed, abandoned, and denied Him. Beyond the physical agonies of His torture and crucifixion, one can only imagine the emotional agony of the bloodied Jesus hearing the crowd chant “crucify him” – the very people that He was suffering for. Hanging on the cross it felt like even His Heavenly Father had abandoned Him: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
Yet Jesus took His strength from God’s sure promises and trusted that the Father’s love would result in an eventual reversal. In the days leading up to His execution, Jesus cited Isaiah’s prophecy of the stone rejected by the builders which became the chief cornerstone of the entire structure (Matthew 21:42). In His triumph over evil and death through His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus indeed was, and remains, the cornerstone of God’s plan of salvation for all mankind.
Today in the church, many are feeling the loneliness of rejection. Some of us remember a time when ‘Christianity’ and ‘America’ were treated as virtual synonyms. Though our neighbors might have espoused a different flavor of belief, they seemed to agree that faith should occupy a central place in our lives. Even the media was respectful and gave lip-service to God’s laws as the basis for civil authority. Perhaps this easy acceptance bred complacency, but there was a reassuring sense of belonging.
Our world certainly feels like it has changed. Many Christians today feel rejected by our culture and our nation. Popular entertainers sneer at our beliefs, and rather than being supported in our commitment to God’s Word, we may find ourselves having to defend ourselves from charges of narrow-mindedness and intolerance. It feels like traditional Christianity no longer ‘fits’ in the world we live in today. And that may be so.
But our faith remains anchored on the only sure foundation – Jesus Christ, God’s Cornerstone. We are reminded that He has always been and will always be the piece that doesn’t fit in the world’s priorities. That’s as it must be, since Jesus is the cornerstone of a ‘building plan’ that the world of selfish human interests rejects: a new heaven and new earth where God’s Kingdom will be fully revealed and His children will live in intimacy with Him, finding the true peace and fulfillment that we were created for. For those intent on building on other foundations, this is a hostile, indeed a terrifying prospect since it threatens the self-idolatry which has always separated us from God. Yet, for those that know the reality of God’s unconditional love, this is a message of hope and comfort. In Him we find the acceptance and redemption that gives ultimate meaning and purpose to our lives. So though our world may reject Him, Jesus Christ remains God’s sure Cornerstone in whom we may confidently trust – and that is the Good News that we must cling to and share.