"Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus."
Kenneth L. Samuel
One of the things I love about the Gospel of Christ is that it can never be compelled by force. The gospel can only be received by virtue of its ability to convince, convict and convert the hearts of free-thinking individuals. This makes the gospel compelling but never compulsory.
But the free thinking that opens the door to the possibility of receiving the gospel also opens the door to the possibility of rejecting it. Not everyone who hears the good news will heed it; not everyone who listens will want to follow. Any ministry based upon a unanimous acceptance of the gospel will not get very far.
The question is, what do we do when we hit the brick walls of obstinate rejection in ministry or in politics or in relationships or in business or in our everyday endeavors? The Apostle Paul's response to the obstacles of opposition in his life give us at least five simple (but not simplistic) clues.
• Be prepared. The easiest way to be thrown off balance by rejection is to fail to brace yourself for it. Paul was no stranger to contentious resistance. He understood it to be part and parcel of the work he was called to do.
• Be resilient. Our failure to convince others does not necessarily make us a failure. We must be able to bounce back from rejection with a resolve that keeps us positively engaged and on task.
• Be respectful. The right to choose should be respected at all times, even if the choices do not favor us. The temptation to demonize those who disagree with us must be resisted if our work is not to be mired in vain strife.
• Be flexible. Sometimes we become so fixated on carrying out our mission in a certain way, in a certain place and with a certain people, that we completely miss the opportunity to explore and develop new communities and contexts for service. Sometimes God multiples by dividing.
• Be faithful. God doesn't call us to be successful. God calls us to be faithful. "Well done, thou good a faithful servant" is the highest aim of every true Christian disciple.
God we thank you for giving us purpose through your mission. Now prepare us for success and failure. And through it all, make us your faithful servants. Amen.