We all face rejection; it’s a given. If you haven’t been laughed at yet, you will be. Virtually all of us have experienced the derision of our peers at a young age and remember well the emotional pain our so-called friends inflicted upon us.
As we get older, the stakes get higher. Whether it’s the rejection letter from a potential employer or unrequited love, disappointment can be our closest friend.
As a Christian, being mocked by the world is par for the course. Jesus promised that we’d suffer abuse from unbelievers, for the gospel is an offensive message. “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20).
The apostle Paul — no stranger to the whip of the wicked — told Timothy that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). And Peter wrote, “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12)
Knowing all this doesn’t make the pain any easier to endure, however. What should be our response to such unjust treatment and ridicule?
I believe that Psalm 22 provides a model for us to follow. David wrote this psalm, and he, too, was well acquainted with persecution. But this psalm finds its primary fulfillment in the gruesome death of our Savior. This psalm is the prayer of Jesus, for David’s words became the cry of the Messiah on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1, Mark 15:34).
What did Jesus do when faced with the most horrifying affliction known to man? Yes, He expressed His despair. He told God exactly how He felt. He bore His soul while bearing our sin. God was unleashing His wrath upon His only begotten Son – what could be more excruciating than that? Jesus was serving the death sentence for our crimes and He let God know how agonizing it was to provide the salvation they had planned from eternity past.
But Jesus did something else on the cross: He worshipped His Father. “Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises” (Psalm 22:3). Amazingly, Jesus did not remain focused on Himself and His pain. Instead, He looked away from Himself and worshipped God for His holiness.
The English Standard Version renders the first part of this verse as “You are holy” – an even more succinct and powerful expression of praise. When faced with the ultimate test of His love for the Father, Jesus was thinking of God’s righteousness. He knew that God’s holiness was the reason He was on the cross. Since a holy God cannot allow unforgiven sinners into His presence, Jesus’ sin-covering crucifixion was the only way we could ever enter into a right relationship with God. The holiness of God motivated Jesus to pay the ultimate price to liberate us from slavery to sin, death and the devil.
If Jesus worshipped God for His holiness while on the cross, shouldn’t we do the same while taking up our cross?
We are called to a life of suffering; it is the will of God. By focusing on God’s perfect character, we remind ourselves that He remains in control of our lives even when it may appear otherwise.
When faced with persecution, like Jesus, the best thing we can do is cry out to God, “Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” No matter what people do to us, our sovereign God continues to reign over all.