Download or listen to Lenten Midweek II, “No Shame” (Romans 10:8b-13)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Those who talk about such things say that the difference between shame and guilt is that guilt says, “I did something bad,” while shame says, “I am bad.” And the difference between shame and embarrassment is that shame can be felt in private, while embarrassment is public. There are whole cultures based around shame…such as high school. If we can describe shame rather than define it: shame is a lie told so many times that you believe it, until one day your face is lit with the slow burn of the Truth. Shame is all of your disgraceful words and thoughts which you have sworn to keep in the deepest, darkest part of your memory. Shame is what keeps you up at night, tossing and turning, wondering what would happen if everyone knew. And shame is believing something so firmly that it defines your life, only to find out, in the end, that you were wrong the whole time.
Imagine, for a moment, that everything you know and believe about Christ, everything you believe about His love, everything about His mercy, everything about His resurrection—all of it was false. Imagine you come to the last Day and you find out your sins are too many, that they have, in fact, condemned you to an eternity wrapped up in yourself and your shame, apart from God; imagine that everything you have ever done, said, or thought is laid open for examination on the last day. All the onlookers, all your friends and relatives, along with strangers, see everything you’ve hidden so well. And not even Christ’s righteousness can cover your sin. It is every public scandal that is played out over the internet multiplied 100 times. To find out, in the end, that you must live up to a righteousness of the Law, rather than live by the righteousness of God that He gives freely; to have your faith exposed as a sham, to have your God exposed as imaginary—or worse, a stern judge—to have every critic and mocker of Christianity be proven correct, that would be what the Scriptures mean by shame. It is the fear of the Psalmist: “I cling to your testimonies, O [Yahweh]; let me not be put to shame!” (Psalm 119:31).
This shame is not a question of whether everyone will know what you’ve done; the public, especially the public media cycle, has a short memory. This shame is life and death, played out across eternity. Will Christ leave you to yourself, after all His promises? Will man be true, and every God a liar? Have you built on rock, or just shifting sand?
Paul says on rock. And not just rock, but the Rock that cannot be moved. The cornerstone on and around which everything in this entire creation is built. The sure foundation, which no doubt, no mockery, no experience, no emotion, no event—no shame—can shake. “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:11). This stone has been put in place, laid down, by God Himself. Just as the one psalmist prayed that he would not be put to shame, the other psalmist answers: “Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame” (Psalm 25:3). Christ is the only hope in the history of this sad, old world that cannot put its hopers to shame, not even in the slightest. Not only is it certain, but it is so certain that it puts everything else in doubt. What looks foolish to the world is exactly that which puts to shame the wise; what looks weak to the world is exactly that which puts to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27).
And what looks more foolish or weaker or more shameful than a dying man on a cross? What is more foolish than a criminal getting off while the innocent man dies? What is weaker than getting everything in return for nothing? What is more shameful than having all your sins and defects and face-burning lies exposed before the One who knows all things? But then He says that they belong to the man on the cross? No, this is not a religion that anyone would invent: a naked God in human flesh willingly suffering and dying, rather than extracting vengeance on His enemies. Nevertheless, the one who trusts Him will not be put to shame. The one who trusts Him will not have that trust proven false. The one who trusts Him will come into the light of every word, every promise, every gift vindicated. Just as it was for Jesus: God raised Him from the dead. That weak one, that foolish one, that shamed one is Yahweh. Jesus is Kyrios, Lord, the God of all things and all people. And you will see Him, without any shame, without any embarrassment, without any guilt. The things that keep you up at night are buried in the light of resurrection’s morning. The flush that comes to your face is replaced with joy in your Lord. The Truth will outlast the lie, and save all who call on Him; because the one who calls on Him believes; and the one who believes has a preacher of mercy; and the preacher of mercy has been sent by the same God who raised Jesus from the dead. Hear it again; it is near you, in your mouth and in your heart: this man, Jesus, is God, and the Father raised Him from the dead. Because of His shame, and because He was proved true in resurrection, so does your shame vanish like death, and your resurrection will be the proof of His promises to you. Nothing at all in this Gospel of which to be ashamed! It is the very power of God for your salvation.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 2/19/13