Acts 13:51–52 will not make sense to you unless you understand the context of the passage. These two verses of Scripture hold a principle that helps us understand God’s definition of freedom: godly freedom willingly accepts rejection. This is often a hard concept for women to accept. In general, women are pleasers. Women love to be loved and accepted. Women often go to great lengths to try to make everyone happy and maintain peace. They want to avoid the emotional pain that comes from rejection!
In Acts 13, the disciples of Jesus Christ took a different approach to rejection. The disciples learned early in their ministries that living for the name of Jesus Christ would produce rejection in their lives. The disciples embraced this truth and, as a result, experienced the freedom to be rejected without taking the rejection personally.
We see the freedom to be rejected firsthand in the Acts 13 account. Paul and Barnabas set out on their first missionary journey and traveled to a place called Pisidian Antioch. Once there, they spoke in the Jewish synagogue. Paul shared God’s story of redemption, tracing the story from the time of Israel’s slavery in Egypt to the time of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Initially, Paul and Barnabas were accepted, and they were invited to speak again the following week. The next week the entire town arrived to hear the message Paul brought. The Jewish leaders became enraged with jealousy. Paul and Barnabas then turned to the Gentiles and shared the gospel message; many Gentiles believed. Scripture indicates that the word of the Lord spread throughout the region. The Jews did not like that people were coming to faith in Christ. As a result, the Jews incited prominent men and women to persecute Paul and Barnabas. In the end, the two apostles were expelled from the region.
If you are wondering how Paul and Barnabas handled this rejection, read today’s passage. They shook the dust from their feet (which was a way of showing the town that the apostles would not be held responsible for the Jews in the town rejecting Christ) and headed to the next town with joy in their hearts. How could Paul and Barnabas respond to rejection in this way? They recognized that the rejection was not personal. The Jewish leaders were not rejecting the apostles—they were rejecting Christ!
Freedom came in Paul and Barnabas’ lives when they embraced the truth that following Jesus would cost them. It would cost them their reputation. It would cost them their comfort. And in the end, it would cost them their lives. Although the cost was great, the reward was even greater. The reward became freedom to thrive on this earth as they lived a passionate life for Jesus Christ no matter the cost!
Today, do you need to hear that it is okay to be rejected for Jesus’ sake? If so, look to God’s Word and allow His Word to set you free. You can be rejected and still thrive. You can shake the dust off your feet and move on to the next stage in your life. You can experience rejection and still have a heart that is filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. The choice you face is this—will you accept the rejection that comes from living for Jesus Christ or will you give in to the voices around you telling you to live for acceptance in this world? May I encourage you to experience a little rejection? Then, shake the dust off your feet and move on!