I’ve seen some pretty outrageous bumper-stickers in my day. I’m sure we all have but one I saw back last November made me do a double-take. On the back of this car was a neon yellow bumper-sticker with these words “Kill ‘em all and let God figure it out.”
Needless to say, I was offended, frightened, and outraged at all once. I even said a quick prayer for the person driving the car, that God would soften their hardened heart.
And after saying that prayer, I felt so much better than them. Like I was so much godlier, so much wiser than they’d ever be.
It wasn’t but a month later when I was settling into bed where I’ll generally read Cooking magazines. That night, I found something that got my dander up. It was an article on Jewish cuisine. Somehow the author found a way of voicing their opinion on the dietary restrictions in the Old Testament. According to the author, what they all boiled down to was that they were designed by humans to reinforce power structures. No talk of a loving or a Holy God interested in the holiness of God’s community. Just man-made rules enforced to insure propagation of power.
“Natalie,” I said immediately. “People who think like this are the worst people in the whole world.”
The next day I set about crafting the most searing letter ever written. Truth be told, I spent more time working on than I’d like to admit. I poured into it all my venom about the way Christianity is under attack. While writing it, my mood was dark. I was angry. If I had seen that bumper sticker that had so offended me earlier, I have to confess I would’ve whole-heartedly agreed with the sentiment.
Sometimes rejection brings out the worst in us, doesn’t it? I mean, that’s what ultimately lay behind my tirade. I imagine that the burning of rejection likely lurks within the person who’d put that bumper-sticker on their car.
Thinking back on our lives, I’ll bet we can all remember the names and faces of those who rejected us. Who can’t recall the first person who spurned us romantically? Do we still hold ill feelings towards a company that fired us or didn’t hire us to begin with? We might even remember the people who’ve rejected us while largely forgetting the more positive influences in our lives.
Rejection just does that to us sometimes. It blinds us to the larger picture. It almost invariably leads to us wanting to lash out.
One the most combustible types of rejection comes when people dismiss things that we’re passionate about. I might be okay with you talking trash about the Atlanta Braves but don’t utter a negative syllable about my beloved Tarheels.
But I think our anger flares the most when people reject what we believe about God.
When other people refute our core religious beliefs, we feel the bile burning in the back of our throats. Our insides twist together and we just yearn to vent our anger. That rage is the power behind quote-unquote Holy wars, those brutal conflicts when two sides reject what the other believes about God. Then, the only way to determine who’s right and who’s wrong is to kill one another. Last side standing wins because they’re supposedly the ones whom God protected.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus sets his face towards Jerusalem. These are no idle words from Luke’s author. From this point forward, Jesus is always heading toward the site of his ultimate rejection. In Jerusalem, Jesus will be rejected, not just by Romans and Pharisees, but by apostles and disciples too. Everyone rejects him. And they lash out at him, nailing him to a Cross.