Christ's acceptance in times of rejection.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” –John 14:1-3
In her memoir Surprised by Oxford, Carolyn Weber recounts the story of her Christian conversion while studying Romantic literature at Oxford University. She encounters God in everyday interactions with friends and complete strangers, including one memorable exchange while traveling.
Weber finds herself on a trip back home openly conveying to a complete stranger her struggle with taking that final leap into Christianity. “No one will understand,” she says. “No one will listen; no one will really hear.”
Then she quietly admits her deepest fear and objection: “I will no longer belong.”
Rejection is something each and every Christian will encounter. Christ himself makes that very clear. Throughout his ministry he prepares his disciples to face the same sort of rejection that will bring him to the cross. In fact, he tells them in John 16, they will be put out of the synagogue and even killed for their faith.
In spite of that, Christ encourages his disciples to carry on with the ministry and work he has called them to do. And through his encouragement, he gives them a window into the life they have to come, the one that is waiting for them when the mission has been won.
In John 14, Christ explains that he won’t leave us as “orphans.” Instead, he is going before us to prepare a place for us. This will be a place of belonging — a place we can finally call home. “I will come back and take you with me,” he says in verse 3. “That you also may be where I am.”
But what about the intervening years? The time where, as Weber states, we simply won’t “belong.” Christ doesn’t leave his followers to face rejection alone. Instead, Christ gives us his spirit, the Holy Spirit, who is an advocate — a spirit of truth who goes out from the Father to testify about Christ.
Christ says in John 16:13, “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.”
The Holy Spirit will guide us as we work to navigate the changing culture around us. He will be our advocate, going before us to shape hearts and minds in a way that will ultimately bring about God’s will in everything we do.
As Christians we will face rejection, including the loss of communities we once loved, but in exchange we are receiving an unconditional love that never changes — the loving commitment of God our father who is working through his church to bring about his will. “The one who loves me will be loved by my Father,” Christ says in John 14:21. “And I too will love them.”
In Surprised by Oxford, when Weber makes her confession about the fear of no longer belonging, the traveling stranger turns to her in reply asking, “to whom?”
In the midst of our darkest and loneliest times, we belong to our heavenly father. He will never leave us, and he will never forsake us. In his arms is where we find our hope and strength. In his love is the place we call home — the place of our ultimate belonging.
Dominique McKay is a Women's Ministry Associate in Washington, D.C.