Julie sits in the worship service. Week in and week out she hears about how Jesus came to the earth to die for her sin. It’s something she’s heard week in and week out since she was a child. But for some reason her heart isn’t really in the service. She feels the weight of what she did last night. She was up watching some things she knew she shouldn’t have been watching. She’s kept it from her parents and her church friends.
Thomas is a father of two. His wife left him a few years ago and he’s raising his two children on his own. He brings his family to church because he wants his kids to know Jesus. He himself has grown a great deal in his faith. But he still feels a little uncomfortable in service. He looks around at the families in the church and can’t shake that nagging feeling that he’s different. Everyone else seems to have things worked out. But Thomas can’t help but feel like a failure.
We’re continuing a reflection on Gospel Fluency. Gospel Fluency essentially means allowing the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection to make its impact into the practical areas of our lives. It means unpacking the Gospel and bringing it into areas that we may not have thought was relevant. The Gospel is more than just a ticket to heaven – it actually changes how we see, think, and enjoy things. It has the power to change our stories and put Christ at the center of it.
These scenarios are just two that were made up. More can be made. Both stories have something in common about them: shames. What is shame? Shame is strongly connected with the idea of dishonor. Because of what you have done or what someone has done to you, there is a desire to hide. There’s a physical action involved with it –a person puts their head down. There is fear of what people will think of you and a desire to be cut off from people. One way of thinking about it is losing face.
In Asian churches, the idea of honor and shame is a huge motivator in what we do and what we avoid. However, the phenomenon is not limited to Asian culture. People of all cultures feel it to varying extents. Each culture has its own group of people who are cut off because of shame. For many in our church, your shame may be because they feel as if you are a failure as a parent. It may be that you are struggling in your marriage or have gone through a divorce. For others, it is because you are struggling with an addiction.
How does the gospel address this? The Gospel doesn’t ignore shame or downplay it. The Gospel has both truth and mercy. First, we must understand that not all aspects of negative feelings are bad or misplaces. Shame is like pain. If we didn’t experience pain, we wouldn’t know that something is wrong. If someone does something wrong and does not feel shame, that’s a problem. But it’s helpful to know the source of the shame. Is it shame because of something we have done or is it shame because of something done to us? If the source is you, in other words, you are the perpetrator or the source of the shame, freedom is found in repentance. Christ came not to continue or perpetuate sin, but to rescue us from it. Truth needs to be brought to the light. Christ has saved us and calls us to holiness. Truth is not what leads to pain, but truth is what sets us free to be healed. There may be consequences to revealing the truth, but remember it is not the truth that leads to pain, but the sin itself that remains hidden.
If the source is from the actions of another, know that Jesus knows and had experienced your pain as well. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus went to the cross, ͞scorning its shame͟. The cross was a shameful object. It was intended to be an object of humiliation and shame. Jesus overcame the cross and rose again from the dead. Christ has overcome the shame and because Christ lives in us.
What does this mean for us? Many of us when it comes to things we are ashamed about, choose to hide. Like our ancestors, Adam and Eve when they were caught in sin, were afraid and hid themselves from the very one who would rescue them. The gospel reminds us that the cross is bigger than our shame. This is not to say that this is necessarily a quick fix. We need to continue to remember the gospel and remember Christ’s work in our lives.