Like lambs among wolves
Eric S. Roecker
He clenches his hands, palms soaked with sweat.
The butterflies in his stomach flutter fiercely.
He looks in the mirror one last time to make certain that every hair is in place and that nothing of his lunch is tucked between his teeth.
He wonders if he can do this. He is terrified. It has taken him weeks to work up the courage. What if she says no? What if the girl of his dreams rejects him? What worries him is the thought of being rejected, of being told, in essence, “You’re not good enough.” He’s not sure he can handle it. It might just be better to avoid that possibility all together.
She stares at the bright white envelope on the well-worn kitchen table. She has waited what seems like an eternity for it. Now, here it is, right in front of her, and she is too terrified to open it. She knows that her future lies within. Has she been accepted to the university she has always dreamed of attending? She has spent years taking all the right classes, joining all the right clubs, being involved in all the right extra curriculars. She has spent countless late nights studying to get good enough grades. Her hands tremble as she struggles to unseal the envelope.
The fear of rejection is common to us all. We want to be accepted—so much so that the fear of being rejected sometimes keeps us from asking out that special person or applying to that university. Better to play it safe than risk rejection.
This same fear sometimes keeps Christians from telling others about their Savior. We think, What if they won’t listen? What if they laugh at me? What if they think I’m ignorant and naïve? What if I invite them to church and they say no?
If the fear of rejection keeps you from telling others about their Savior, then listen to Jesus in Luke chapter 10. While sending 72 of his disciples to proclaim the coming kingdom of God, he told them: “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves” (v. 3).
That doesn’t sound very encouraging! Why not tell them that there is nothing to worry about? Why not tell them that they will surely be successful?
Because God cannot lie. Jesus told them the way it was. He knew very well that they would face opposition. He knew the spiritual forces of darkness would mass against them. He knew that the people to whom they preached would not always welcome the good news the disciples shared.
People won’t always welcome the good news when we proclaim it either. And, in a strange way, this truth can comfort us. It conditions our hearts from becoming overly optimistic. It steels us for the inevitable rejections we will encounter.
Jesus tells us, in no uncertain terms, that some people will welcome our message and others will not. In fact, they will be wolves.
So what? How does this, in any way, change our mission? Our Savior sends us with the message of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. We proclaim it. We invite others to hear about it at worship or in a Bible study. Some will welcome our invitation. Others will not. So it is. So it has always been.
This does not mean we are indifferent. We are saddened when God’s message is rejected. We are thrilled when God’s message is received. But, either way, our task remains the same—to proclaim that message.
During my 20 years serving as a parish pastor, I had the opportunity to teach dozens of Bible information classes. It was one of my favorite parts of being a parish pastor.
People new to our church, and in some cases new to Christianity, would gather to learn the basics of the Christian faith. We talked about sin and grace—what Jesus did to save us—and more.
It was always exciting to begin a new series of classes. I was always hopeful that the souls attending would receive God’s truth with joy. Often, they did. Occasionally, they did not. I never knew what would happen. But it was not my job to know what would happen. It was my job to share what God’s Word says.
Sharing the gospel is the job—and the privilege—of every follower of Jesus Christ. We dare not allow our fear of rejection to keep us from accomplishing this task. After all, what is really at the root of this fear? Most often it is because we are self-centered. We are thinking too much about what rejection will mean for our reputation or relationships and too little about what failing to share the gospel will mean for the souls of others. We are putting our comfort ahead of our Savior’s command. We are putting ourselves ahead of both our neighbor and our God.
Thankfully, our God sent us a Savior. Jesus was willing to be rejected himself in order to save us from our sins—yes, even the self-centeredness that sometimes keeps us from telling others about him. Many of the people who heard Jesus preach rejected what he had to say. But this did not stop him from continuing to preach. He loved them too much.
Look at the people the Lord has brought into your life. Do they know that, in Jesus, their sins are forgiven and eternal life is theirs? If not, find time to tell them. Or invite them to worship or a Bible information class where they can hear the good news.
Ten minutes ago, I sent a text message to someone I met more than two years ago. She is not a Christian. Over the past couple of years, we have had multiple discussions about God and faith and our eternal fate. Each time we have talked, she has argued against the kind of God I described. So far, there is no indication that she believes in any kind of personal God, much less trusts in Jesus as the one, true God and her Savior. But, as I wrote the preceding paragraph and thought about the people the Lord has brought into my life, this young woman came to mind. So I reached out again to invite her to continue our conversation. I don’t know what will happen. I don’t know where it will lead. I don’t know whether she will ever accept what I am sharing. But I do know that I am not wasting my time. I am doing what my Jesus has told me to do. And I know he is with me as I carry out his command.
Let this be your comfort as well, even if you fear being rejected. You are carrying out his command, and he will be with you as you do.
So . . . what is there to worry about?
Eric Roecker, the director for WELS Commission on Evangelism, is a member at Pilgrim, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.
This is the second article in a three–part series on the story of Jesus sending out his disciples in Luke 10.
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Author: Eric S. Roecker
Volume 106, Number 3
Issue: March 2019
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