The Scandal of the Gospel – Relationships

For not even His brothers believed in Him. John 7:5 

Then Jesus went home, and once again a crowd gathered, so that He and His disciples could not even eat. And when His family heard it, they went out to seize Him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 3:20-21

I recently sat pondering these words as I nursed a wounded heart having been deeply hurt by loved ones who should have been our biggest cheerleaders. I once again was totally confused and could not understand the rejection we had received from family in the face of an act of sacrificial love that we had chosen to step into. And, this was definitely not the first time we had received this type of unusual response to acts of love. In fact looking back on our 26 years as a family, it had happened almost every time, without fail, when we had chosen to lay down our desires to obey His call!  Each time we had plunged joyfully head on into a situation showing deep love and care, expecting approval, for it appeared that we were doing a good thing, we instead were bombarded with criticism, condemnation or isolation – and strangely, almost no one publicly took our side to defend us. This usually upsets me, but this time, God was beginning to show me that following Him was counterintuitive to the comfort and ease of the world, it was the way of the cross! He was allowing His truth to slowly sink into my shattered heart.

Rejection or betrayal by trusted loved ones is very painful. My natural reaction in the face of rejection, especially since my heart had been weakened by over two decades of trauma, loss, rejection, pain and suffering was to lash out, to get angry, to want to reject God, and often in these moments of pain I would conclude that good deeds were not worth the cost. I have been through these emotions on numerous occasions throughout my life even though I knew that harboring these thoughts was poisoning my soul. This past year had already been extra hard on me as I was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted for many other reasons and now, this situation seemed to be adding unnecessary stress. And worst of all God seemed silent, not defending us or bringing light to the situation. The thought kept crossing my mind, was He really worth it – for we were sacrificially doing it mainly for Him?

My husband, the architect of the act of kindness was also confused by the situation but he was far more determined than me to believe that Romans 8:28 was true. That, all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purposes. He was hurt too but he had chosen to place a stake in the ground years ago to stand firm on the Word of God even if we are surrounded by storms. I was angry that he could continue trusting God‘s plan even during this bleak time while I felt I couldn’t. Thank God that his perseverance helped me tide through my unbelief. He led the way for me and our children to forgive and to not retaliate but instead to grieve the separation from God of those who were causing this hurt and to pray for them in love. He did this only by the grace of God – not because he is a saint. As we wrestled through this painful situation, we did have a few days of angry arguments on how to respond. But, as we wrestled, he blessed us by pushing forward and reading many a devotional and Bible passage on forgiveness, on vengeance done God’s way and the most intriguing of all, on the expected persecution when we choose to follow Jesus! God used these to permeate my very soul which helped me turn away from the storm to fix my eyes on Jesus, the Lord of the storm! 

Rejection is a word that is commonly used in the adoptive world we have been a part of for the past two decades. Children often go through life feeling the depths of rejection and loss of their first families. Meanwhile, their adoptive parents often feel the rejection of the children they have chosen to love while also battling family and society as they walk through an unknown, unchartered parenting journey which is often counterintuitive and in opposition to the establishment! It is sometimes excruciatingly painful and extremely lonely. The traumatized children lash out often unable to process their pain and loss and  parents need to do their best in love to bear their hurt and to cushion their pain. Trauma and rejection go hand in hand. Often it feels like we are dying a little at a time on the inside, being crushed until it seems like we are unable to even breathe again. Meanwhile, the world around us whispers, even shouts, that we are the crazy ones, for it is we who appear to be angry or upset. They seem blinded to our constant love in the trenches, where we are choosing to love and protect, give and serve many around us.  They don’t see the exhaustion as we walk the trenches with the broken-hearted, the lonely, the widow and the orphan. This kind of love and life being contra to the norm causes most people to be unable to process it so it almost seems easier for people to criticize, reject or even walk away from rather than embrace and be challenged to do themselves. Often, darkness appears to have won! 

Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to Him?” John 10:20 Wow! This is the Son of God on mission here on earth that this passage is referring to. He did not have it easy. His own family thought He was a nut-job even though they would’ve known the miraculous circumstances around His birth and had experienced His heart having grown up with Him. They were blinded by sin and could only see insanity not God in the flesh. The Bible does not give reasons for their backlash and rejection – it just states that His family demeaned Him and rejected Him. All this while others loved and adored Him even if they didn’t fully understand. Only the power of the Holy Spirit could have caused Peter to proclaim this truth about Jesus: 

He (Jesus) said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 16:15-17

Jesus’ message was and still is extremely offensive. If He was so tolerant and loving, why then was He crucified in a most horrific manner? We tend to underestimate the scandal of the gospel by thinking Christianity is a comfort religion. Jesus hated sin and He found the world offensive and constantly confronted and exasperated people. He stirred up the calm waters of religious expectations and common sense of His day. Most people could not accept His teachings as it stirred and convicted their very souls out of complacency and lethargy of faith and spirituality to sacrifice, surrender, repentance and forgiveness. This drove many people to fervently hate Him which led to His horrific crucifixion on the cross at Calvary. The sinless Son of God, murdered like a common criminal, publicly shamed, rejected, and completely alone. 

Mark 3:21 must refer to those of Jesus’ flesh, that is, those who shared a flesh-and-blood familial relationship with Him. At least at this point in Jesus’ ministry, His family was blinded enough by sin to mistake His teaching for the ravings of a man suffering a bout of insanity. But this text also has an important message for anyone who becomes a disciple, or follower, of the Lord. If even Christ’s own family did not understand Him and thought He was out of His mind, we should not be surprised that our relatives might think the same of us when we are faithful to our Savior….Dr. Sproul writes in his commentary Mark that “anyone who takes his faith seriously and speaks on behalf of Christ and His kingdom will be accused of fanaticism at some point.” When we follow Jesus, we will inevitably face people—perhaps even our closest relatives—who think we are strange, crazy, or maybe even evil. When this occurs, let us recall that Jesus Himself faced people who misunderstood Him. Still, He loved them, and so too must we love those who think we are lunatics or fanatics.

We are called to pray for those who persecute us. We are called to continue loving our enemies and doing good to those who hate us. This could be a parent, or a sibling, a spouse or a child, a relative or a friend, a neighbor or a coworker, a church member or a Bible Study leader, really anyone who has chosen to hurt or reject us…..God calls us to love as we follow in His footsteps, not in our strength, but with His peace, joy and love. We will experience perfect relationships one day in heaven with Jesus and with every person saved by His grace, our true family, for all eternity.

God said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So I am glad to boast of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. So I take pleasure in my weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions & troubles to suffer for Christ. When I am weak, then in Him I am truly strong. 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 

So true from our own life experiences. The true blessing and scandal of the gospel is in knowing God through the pain!

 

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