Thursday, April 05, 2018

Do Not Rise and Fall By What People Think of You

Scripture tells us that Jesus was "despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief." (Isaiah 53:3) This was some of the deep, emotional suffering Jesus underwent.

I relate, to a degree. I know what it's like to be despised and rejected by people, even by Christian people. When this happens it is so hard. At my lowest, it makes me feel like a failure. And that feeling is something not right about me, and something that can be changed. Let me explain.

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Green Lake Christian Conference Center, Wisconsin
Henri Nouwen writes: "The great obstacle which prevents the Spirit working in us is self-rejection. The greatest obstacle to the Spirit working in us is that we say to ourselves that we are useless, we are nothing." (The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life, 78)

Conversely, the open door to the Spirit's working in us is the heart knowledge we are deeply loved and accepted, by grace, by God. Jesus told his disciples that, after his death, the Father would come and make his home in their hearts. When we know we are loved by God, and that God loves us in spite of the condition of our hearts, we are "something" in the eyes of God, so much so that the Spirit desires to take up residence within us.

Know the affirmation of God, rather than seek the affirmation of persons.

We all need affirmation, as well as realistic evaluation. But there is a disease called affirmation addiction, and it is punishing to the soul. The affirmation addict goes up and down with the approval and disapproval of people.

Are you disturbed when someone dismisses you, or assaults you on social media? When you get a "thumbs down?" 

I've been upset when someone attacks me. If I did not live for the approval of other people, I would not die by their disapproval of me. I have to choose whose acceptance I will live and die for. (I am writing this as much for myself as for anyone else.)

Bob Sorge says, "Jesus was not touched by the praise of man, so he was not wounded by the rejection of man." (See here.) Sorge is commenting on John 5:44, where Jesus faces his followers and says,  How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

Nouwen writes:

"Once I know I am the Beloved, once I start discovering that in me, then the Spirit can work in me and in others; then we can do wonderful things. Now, once I say, "No, God doesn't love me, I am not as good as everyone else," somehow I do not claim the truth that Jesus came to proclaim." (Only Necessary Thing, 78)

Embracing God's love is the antidote to a spirit of self-rejection. It frees us to have compassion for our despisers.

Jesus didn't rise and fall by what other people thought of him. Instead, he lived and died by the Father's approval, and thus was free to live and die for you and me.

My two books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

I'm working on book #3 - How God Changes the Human Heart (A Phenomenology of Spiritual Transformation)

And #4 - Technology and Spiritual Formation