Why Do People Reject the Gospel?

Pastor Ian shares with us five reasons for people's rejection of Jesus, and provides wise and practical advice on how we can respond.

Perhaps like me, you sometimes get discouraged when, despite your best efforts, friends and family continue to reject the gospel. Why do people reject the good news, and is there anything we can do about it? I have a few thoughts. 

1. People reject Jesus because of ignorance—

For generations people have been taught that humanity is basically good. In the words of one contemporary musician, "I’ll show you all the beauty you possess, if you’d only let yourself believe that we are born innocent.  Believe me… we are still innocent. It’s easy, we all falter, does it matter?" (Sarah McLachlan, 'Adia') In the mythology of this well nurtured humanistic philosophy, sin is an illusion and guilt a tool leveraged by corrupt religions. As a result, many are living with no awareness that, "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God." (Romans 3:10-11)

What can I do? Remember the good news. Jesus told Zacchaeus, "the Son of man came to seek and save the Lost." I can live and share joyfully when I remember that He has not called me to reinforce guilt, nor has He required me to save. Though my friend is not seeking Him, Jesus is seeking my friend. He will convict. And He will save!

2. People reject Jesus because of blindness—

As a symbol of his rejection of Christ, Saul was struck with blindness. For three days he experienced in his physical body that which his spirit had endured his entire life. He was reduced to being led about by friends. Non-believers are, as Jesus put it, "the blind leading the blind". They are spiritually blind. They cannot see the beauty of the gospel and so are led about in life by other blind friends. 

What can I do? We can and must plead for the healing power of the One who opens blind eyes. It is His power, not our clever words that “gives sight to the blind!” And occasionally, when blind friends lead one another into a pit, we must meet them there with grace and good news.

3. People reject Jesus because of choice—

In Singapore we are used to having lots of choices. People who enjoy the luxury of choice can get irritated when choices are necessarily few. This is why Sherri and I don’t go to the Lagoon Stalls on Tuesdays: many stalls are closed; there are few choices. It’s human nature: we’d much prefer a diverse buffet over simple chicken rice. And that is why so many people bristle at the suggestion that there is really only one choice that leads to life. For many people, Jesus is a good teacher, until He gets exclusive. Until He says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except by me"! Many people insist that, "There is truth in every religion and all roads lead to life, just as all rivers lead to the ocean." The message of the gospel is in itself offensive in a world that celebrates choice. And yet the truth remains: "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

What can I do? We can expect God to be active in our world and full of redemptive purpose. We can believe that He will use all things to turn hearts toward Him. And we can be ready to give a gospel response to any who ask us to give a defence of the hope that lives within us (1 Peter 3:15).

4. People reject Jesus because of…Jesus—

Speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus said, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." (John 5:39-40) The sad truth is, despite the evidence of Scripture, despite the obvious beauty of Christ, there will be some who—just like His friends and family—will take offence at Him (Matthew 13:57). Just as the Jews rejected their King, others in our life will continue to be offended by He who is Lord. Jesus knew that, which is why He said, "And blessed is the one who is not offended by me." (Matthew 11:6)

What can I do? I can grieve. Jesus wept and there are times when I should do the same.

5. People reject Jesus because of me—

People tend to judge the quality of the message by the integrity of the messenger. This may be one reason why surveys consistently list 'hypocritical or disappointing Christians' as a leading reason people reject the good news. These Christians often know the content of the Bible but fail to reflect the behaviour of Christ. And so I am suddenly aware that people are often measuring Jesus by my flaws.

What can I do? In 1 Peter 3:16, the Apostle urges believers to nurture a reputation that favours the gospel. He encourages us to, "have a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame." It is not about improving my reputation. It is about living for the reputation of the name of Jesus. He is irresistible. I am not! So in the words of John the Baptiser, "He must become greater, I must become less."

As we prepare our hearts for this Sunday, you may want to read Acts 17:16-34 to see how the Apostle Paul dealt with this issue. 

Also, how encouraging it was to see the large number of GBCers who stayed back for our Disciple One Another Workshop! This week we will open up additional space. Why not invite a friend to join you!?!