by Parry Stelter

 

When I was a child and I would encounter some form of rejection, it often made me feel insecure – and I felt sad. This would manifest itself by my hiding, or getting mad, when I saw that person or group of people. Most likely I was feeling several different emotions.  Even as I grew older and would experience rejection, I would feel the same way and have the same emotions.

Whether a child or a teenager, this rejection was often for a few reasons. Maybe you can relate to the list of reasons? It could have been because I was overweight, or because I wasn’t as athletic as the other person or group of people. Maybe it was because I wasn’t as good looking as the other person or group of people. Maybe I wasn’t from the same social status as the other person or group of people. Then when I got older and met other Indigenous people (I had been adopted out of my Indigenous community as a child), I felt rejected because my skin color wasn’t brown enough or my blood line wasn’t pure enough, or I didn’t share the same cultural traditions as they did.

When it comes down to it, rejection is rejection, and I don’t think anyone really responds to it very well – regardless of why it is happening.

The work I do involves writing, speaking, teaching workshops, and constantly updating my credentials to do the work that I do. One of the workshops I have been doing in a variety of settings is titled, “Understanding Indigenous People More,” and another one is titled, “Reconciling Indigenous People to the Church and to Christ.” Both workshops help non-Indigenous people understand my fellow people more, regarding what they have been through collectively, throughout the history of the last 400-500 years in Canada, leading right up to present-day situations and circumstances we read about in the media.

The second workshop helps people in general understand some of the tensions within the Indigenous church as a whole and how to minister to Indigenous people more effectively. Trying to counteract the negative effects of 400-500 years of oppression and being misunderstood. Sometimes, its sad to say, other people, even Christians have not seen Indigenous People as made in the Image of God.

And it is not seeing other people as made in the image of God that is the root of all oppression, genocide and colonialism. It is a sin and we need to call it what it is. We all know that racism and prejudice still exist, even within a more politically correct society. The younger generation seems to be doing a better job with this issue than previous generations before them. There are many young people, who don’t even have an interest in Jesus, who do a better job of treating others as equals and treating them with respect.

Keeping all of this in mind, I have come to see myself as an ambassador for Jesus to those around me, because it is every believers job to do so. Yet, I also see myself as an ambassador for my fellow Indigenous People.

Tensions still exist, and as an Indigenous Christian who works in ministry, I often come across other Indigenous people who are hostile to me when they know I am a Christian. I think they feel anger towards me because they see an Indigenous person who has, to them, rejected their own culture. Yet, this is a response that none of us believers should be surprised at. In fact, we are to expect it.

Jesus in Luke 10:16, Then he said to the disciples, “Anyone who accepts your message is also accepting me. And anyone who rejects you is rejecting me. And anyone who rejects me is rejecting God, who sent me.” (NLT)

When I was younger and I experienced rejection, I took it as a complete rejection personally. Now when I experience rejection; especially when it is because of my being a Christian and in ministry, I consider this verse. Their problem is with God, and even their perception of God, not me. Certainly, the government and churches didn’t make their perception of God better, but ultimately, we all have to take responsibility for our own acceptance of the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is true for all, regardless of ethnicity.

So, I have decided to continue to plough forward with the love of Jesus through my writing, speaking, teaching, and lifelong learning. A true ambassador stands up for his/her people regardless of their reaction to them as an individual. A true ambassador of Jesus relates to people with unconditional love. A true Ambassador of Jesus sees others as made in the image of God, whether they believe it or not.

1 Corinthians 9:22 says, When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.” This passage says that some might be saved. I think it is safe to say that not everyone we try to reach will respond positively. We may not help them understand God more. We may not help them get over past abuses. Yet, we all, as believers in Jesus, have the responsibility to be ambassadors for Christ in all situations – so that some may be saved. Not by us, but by God Himself, through the person of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, saving people who are made in His image. Drawing them to Himself.

Rejection can either cripple us spiritually, or it can remind us that if we are also made in the image of God; therefore, how can He reject Himself?

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Parry Stelter
Author: Parry Stelter

Parry Stelter is an Indigenous member of Alexander First Nation. Member of Hope Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton. Founder of Word of Hope Ministries and Doctoral Candidate in Contextual Leadership through Providence Seminary and University. Visit his website at wordofhopeministries.ca.