So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News.
For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.
And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News.
That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return. (New Living Translation)
Guilt and Shame
Shame is a nasty feeling. Whereas guilt is a function of the conscience, and helps steer us toward making things right with others, shame lays an unnecessary heavy burden on the soul. Guilt says that I did or said something that wasn’t good. But shame says we did or said something because I am a failure.
The Apostle Paul insisted to his young protégé, Timothy, that there’s no basis for shame when it comes to proclamation of the gospel. In fact, the Good News confronts shame by putting a wooden stake through its heart.
Shame is a vampire that lives in the shadows and feeds on secrets. But the light of the Gospel penetrates life, disintegrating shame and putting it to death.
God’s word is alive and powerful! It is sharper than any double-edged sword. God’s word can cut through our spirits and souls and through our joints and marrow, until it discovers the desires and thoughts of our hearts. Nothing is hidden from God! He sees through everything, and we will have to tell him the truth. (Hebrews 4:12-13, CEV)
Not a Failure
From a particular perspective, Paul would seem like a failure to many. He was an up and coming star in Judaic circles, but gave it all up to follow Jesus. And then, his life was marked by continual hardship, even persecution. To top it off, he landed in prison. Ironically, Paul found himself in a bad place just for being a preacher of good. He never left his imprisonment, and was eventually killed.
Yet Paul had no shame about any of it. Rather, he embraced the suffering, the difficulty, and all the circumstances that went sideways. Why? Because he had complete faith in who he was serving and what he was doing.
A lot of people, especially church pastors, struggle with shame. Most of them don’t have “successful” ministries when looked at from a certain angle. They see themselves as failures, and end up leaving the ministry and never going back.
Our strength and our help, however, no matter whether we’re clergy or laity, is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth; our assistance is found in the Good News we proclaim, in Jesus Christ, who himself was not ashamed of being tortured and killed.
Let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-3, NLT)
No More Shame
Christ has defanged the vampire of shame. And because of the work achieved on the Cross, we can now live in confidence, knowing who we believe, and trusting that the shame-busting Good News of grace will have it’s penetrating way in the world.
Salvation entails being delivered from something so that we can live for something else. We have been saved from the terrible grip of shame – which then allows us to live a vulnerable and confident faith in Jesus through the power of the Spirit.
Deliverance from shame enables us to respond to our holy calling from God.
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4, NIV)
God chose us to be holy. He does not want us to live in sin. (1 Thessalonians 4:7, ERV)
“Salvation” is a wonderful word which needs to be reclaimed as so much more than going to heaven someday. In reality, it is the divine purpose by which God makes us just, right, and holy, forgiving our offenses and transforming us by the Spirit into the image of Christ.
Christ, in his incarnation, life, ministry, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension has redeemed us. Jesus has torn down every wall, removed each barrier, and built bridges in connecting us to a life without shame and with everything we need to live well.
Christians embody the life of Christ within them by living a holy life, free of the weight of shame, and boldly proclaiming a message of grace, forgiveness, and freedom from the dark secrets we all carry.
This isn’t merely an ethereal gospel; it is Good News of great joy that has real impact for the nitty-gritty of our everyday lives.
O God, the author of peace and lover of harmony, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is deliverance and freedom: Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries, through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen