“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me”
Jesus knows the human condition well. This verse is his forewarning to the 70 disciples as he sends them out into the villages on their way toward Jerusalem. They need to be aware that they will sometimes be received and sometimes not be received in those towns. He is teaching them by experience how to deal with rejection and how to receive the gift of peace from those who receive them.
Shaking the Dust Off
Human nature hasn’t changed much in 2,000 years. Human beings today are still much like those to whom Jesus’ disciples were sent. When was the last time you invited someone to Via de Cristo and they ignored the invitation with a polite excuse, or simply found themselves too busy to take a weekend off. I have discovered that my invitation can be an open door to a person or it can be seen as a detour that some folks just don’t want to take. So I have learned to not feel rejected when someone says no to my invitation to a Via de Cristo weekend.
All I can do is share with them that the kingdom of God has come near. If they refuse, I shake the dust off my feet and seek another pilgrim to become a VdC traveler.
A pastor friend asked me the other day how did I determine when a person was ready for Via de Cristo. Was it because I could see that they were eager to serve God any way they could in the church, or was it because I could see the gifts they had to serve God, and yet were not using them? My response to that question is both. However, it is really when a person sees their need to grow spiritually that they will be open to attend a Via de Cristo weekend.
Those who don’t see the need for spiritual growth or a closer daily walk with Jesus — in the end do not want the Kingdom of God to come near. It is no accident that Jesus sends his disciples ahead of him so they can learn what it means to be rejected and what it means to be received. The disciples need to experience both rejection and reception. What Jesus will experience when they get to Jerusalem is total rejection to the point of death. So anyone who follows Jesus needs to understand that when the Kingdom of God is near, some will receive it in peace and others will reject it.
Jesus teaches us here the persistence that he knows we will need if we follow him. We have to be ready to move on to those who will receive the good news of God’s love and forgiveness. It is our certainty in the truth of the gospel that gives us the ability to shake the dust off our sandals. Of course we also must realize that people do change, and it is always possible that at some later time you can come back to them for a VdC opportunity and invite them again. I am sure I am not alone when I admit that sometimes it’s just easier to leave people alone and let them do their own thing. Rather than risk being turned down again, we ignore them, hiding behind that rejection wall we once experienced rather than taking a risk of inviting them again.
I find it comforting that Jesus doesn’t send the disciples out alone. He sends them out by twos.
We each need a comrade to accompany us and pray with us as we go. We need each other in ministry as we invite others into the Via de Cristo walk. We may need to shake the dust off and move on, but we also do not need to travel alone.
Be a friend, and bring a friend to help you invite another to know Christ more deeply and to make Christ known through Via de Cristo.
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.