Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
This verse has formed part of my meditations over the past few days. Partly because I am approaching this verse in the Hebrews series I am preaching through at church, partly because of things I have read recently and partly because of things I hear week in and week out as part of my counseling duties at church.
Shame and sin hang out together. They are like kissing cousins, if you’ll pardon the expression. They’re cluster sins. Find one, and the other is not far away. Shame, as defined by the dictionary is that painful feeling which comes from awareness that you have done something dishonorable. It’s the feeling that causes Adam and Eve to hide from God in the Garden of Eden. Shame causes you to move away from the relationship that you were intended to have with your creator. It is God, after all, whom you have dishonored by your sin. And so, shame keeps me from moving toward God when I need Him. It pushes me away from Him.
Shame also has a disastrous effect on people relationships. If I feel shame, I can’t look someone in the eye. When I have wronged someone by sinning against them, I often find my desire is to avoid them at any costs. The desire to avoid certain people toward whom you feel shame. Perhaps you have felt this way. Perhaps you have done this. Perhaps you are doing this.
Yet, even through shame causes me to move away from people, and away from God, the glory of the gospel is that Christ took my shame on himself on the cross. So, instead of me running from God, instead of me avoiding people, I can look to the cross of Jesus, see my shame exposed, and repent of my sin. And in the repentance, I find restoration. My relationship with God through Christ is renewed. The gospel gives me hope because I see that Christ bore my sin and shame, he despised it and exposed it, so that I don’t have to be ruled by it.
That’s good news. Because now when I fall, I can fall forward, into the arms of Jesus who is there to help. And into the arms of others, who love me, walk with me and challenge me to obey.