Shame is making a comeback.
Missiologists and theologians have long recognized that Western culture views the issues of guilt and shame very differently than the biblical world. Our culture tends to prioritize guilt–our inner sense of moral right or wrong. But the biblical world thought more about honor and shame. Where guilt focuses on the individual, shame focuses on the community. Shame is a loss of face or standing in the eyes of the community, or being declared fundamentally unacceptable. Honor means inclusion; shame is exclusion.
And the power of shame is growing in the West–particularly among millennials. The power of the Internet and social media has put a new twist on shame. Instead of living with the tension of guilt and innocence or honor and shame, we increasingly walk the tightrope between fame and shame. Our culture elevates its heroes, but woe to the man or woman who commits a social sin. In today’s world, social sins lead to social shaming. The notifications we have used to measure our fame and worth suddenly become a barrage of insults, mocking, and exclusion. And because the Internet never forgets, social shaming lives forever.
But the gospel grants us freedom from shame.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame. (Romans 10:9-11)
In the Roman world, following Jesus bore the risk of shame. The idea of a crucified savior was inherently contradictory. The cross was the ultimate expression of public shame. Crucifixion meant being paraded through the streets, stripped naked, and publicly executed. The shame couldn’t be hidden. It was visible to all. And those associated with the crucified risked also sharing their shame. How could someone who had endured the shame of the cross possibly be worthy of honor–or capable of sharing that honor with others?
And yet that is what Jesus did.
The gospel fundamentally redefines honor and shame. What is important is not inclusion in the eyes of the community, but membership in the family of God. And compared to God’s honor and glory, we are all covered in shame. Impure. Unfaithful. Powerless to save ourselves. Jesus took our shame upon himself that he might cover us with his glory. Through the cross, we are freed from shame and included in the group of God’s honored people. And those who believe in him will never be put to shame.
Freedom from shame was a powerful promise to those who risked losing face by following Jesus. It’s a powerful promise for us as well. Following Christ won’t make us famous. Increasingly, publicly claiming the name of Christ carries the risk of shame. But nothing can alter our inclusion in God’s community. He will not exclude or unchoose us. We are his, and he has declared us worthy. Those who believe in him will never be put to shame.We are his, and he has declared us worthy. Those who believe in him will never be put to shame.Click To Tweet
Mail chimp form