I Shame Happens
- So we’re diving into the second weekend of our series “Beyond All Shame.”
- Last weekend, I gave you a glimpse of how prevalent the theme of shame is in Scripture and how it can be found in almost any arena of our lives.
- And if you missed last weekend, I encourage you to watch/listen to it online this week or through our Branch app.
- I want to begin again by reminding us of what are we talking about when we talk about shame.
- Shame is the pain of being exposed and knowing it.
- Usually, shame involves an awareness of a wrong we’ve done or a shortcoming we have or ignorant behavior on our part that affects how others may see us.
- Even as I say this, I can think of an example of each of these in my life.
When it comes to the shame of wrongdoing in my life, I can think of the time in high school when I was caught by my parents trying to cheat a friend out of money that I owed him.
When it comes to shame of a shortcoming, I can think of being a sophomore on our high school golf team that won our regionals and went to the Texas State Championship and me completely coming apart with anxiety in the state tournament and shooting higher than the temperature that day which was 96 degrees. I can still remember the score being posted for all to see.
When it comes to the shame of an ignorant behavior, I think of my first experience rock climbing. I’m at the top of a 100 foot rock wall in Mineral Wells and they tell me to throw the rope down. What they meant was one end of it. I threw the whole rope down. And saw fifty rock climbers below collapse on the ground out of laughter.
- There are all kinds of experiences we have with shame and the pain of being “exposed” in different shades and different degrees.
- Shame happens.
- The question is how do each of us respond when it happens?
II When Shame Strikes
When Shame Strikes And We Don’t Respond Appropriately….
- It Compounds Our Problems
A few years ago, Tara and I were working with a couple who were struggling in their marriage. The husband had just had an affair. Both she and I weren’t surprised in one sense because we had witnessed the woman tear her husband down publically in front of others for years. One of the things that came out after a few months was that she had had an affair on him early in their marriage, but he never knew it until it came out during the counseling. It was then Tara and I both understood why she had been tearing him down all those years. She felt profound shame for her affair that he had never known about.
She was ashamed of herself, she felt shame before God. But the way she tried to make herself feel better about it was to justify her affair to herself.
And the way she would do that is tear him down often. She sought to compensate for her shame by convincing herself and others how terrible he was. In attempting to cope with her shame in a wrong way, she was actually compounding the problem and beating him down. And in tragic ironic twist, he wound up in an affair when another woman showed the slightest bit of interest in him and affirmed him. He was so starved for affirmation because his wife had been tearing him down for so long as a result of her own private shame. Now the good news is, their marriage has survived and is stronger than ever today.
- But I share with you this to show you the importance of knowing how to process our shame in appropriate ways with the help of Jesus.
- But not only does responding to shame in wrong ways compound our problems.
- It does something else.
- It Interferes With Us Living More Effectively And Productively As Human Beings And Witnesses Of Jesus Christ.
- I was fascinated to learn in my preparation for this series about how we experience shame neurologically.
- Literally, certain parts of our brain “light up” with the experience of shame.
- When shame is experienced, it actually interferes with the part of our brain that involves our rational thinking, our empathy – which is our ability to feel with others, and our desire for social engagement.
- In a way, shame says “no” to those things.
- It acts like a brake in our brain that slows down those things from happening.
- Now, in one sense this can be a good thing as I’ll explain in just a moment, if it’s responded to in the right way.
- But if it’s not and we stay entrenched in shame it can become toxic, interfering with rationale thinking, empathy, and the capacity to socially engaging with others over the long haul.
- Now, you may say, “I’ve known some highly successful business people and athletes who were privately dealing with profound shame.”
- I have two responses to that.
- First, just imagine what they could have done had their shame been processed appropriately.
- Because they weren’t firing on all cylinders.
- Second, watch for how they respond when they encounter failure.
- A lot of times success can distract or numb somebody from their shame.
- But when the distracting agent or numbing agent of success is gone the pain of shame comes raging back.
- This is why I showed you last week in Isaiah 61 that one of the ways God empowers us as human beings and equips us as ministers and priests to others is by dealing with our shame.
- Because when we’re stuck in it – our thinking is not at our best, nor our empathy, nor our capacity for socially engaging others.
III Dealing With Shame In A Healthy Way
- Now these are just a couple of things that happen when shame strikes and we respond to it in unhealthy ways.
- We make matters worse in our lives and it interferes with us being effective and productive as human beings and witnesses for Christ.
- What I want to do for this weekend and the next couple of weekends is help us understand how to deal with shame in a healthy way.
- Dealing with shame in a healthy way is going to take the Great Physician getting involved.
- I want to take you to a verse I touched on last week.
- It’s a verse that some of us have seen all our lives but contains within it words that we tend to skim over.
- And yet they have everything to do when it comes with dealing with shame in our lives.
IV The Shame Of The Cross
- In Hebrews 12:2 we are called to this –
Fix your eyes on Jesus…..For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him….so you will not grow weary and lose heart.
- The cross was a place of shame for Jesus.
- This is one of the things about Jesus that we are called to fix our eyes upon.
- These days when we think of the cross we tend to think of the blood, pain, and physiological suffering of it – and it was all that.
- But it’s interesting to note that when the gospels tell the story of the cross they pay little attention to the physical pain of the crucifixion and instead spend more time telling the story of the shame of the cross.
- He’s mocked and shamed by the religious leaders during His trial, by the Roman soldiers through the night after His trial, by one of the criminals being crucified beside him, and again by the religious leaders at the foot of the cross.
- There is so much shame Jesus takes on at the cross.
- But the shame is really brought home to me through a detail none of us like to think about.
V Shame On The Cross
- When Rome crucified people – they were stripped naked.
- There’s plenty of sources documenting this.
- And then of course you have the story in John 19 of Roman soldiers dividing His clothes among them.
- But do you remember what they gamble for?
- His undergarment.
- They’re even taking that off Him.
- Why strip those you are crucifying naked?
- It’s a radical part of humiliating, shaming, and exposing someone.
- This is sensitive to talk about I know.
- It’s uncomfortable to be unclothed in front of people.
- It’s the experience of being exposed.
- This is why locker rooms in middle school are vulnerable places for young men and women – and really even locker rooms for adults at fitness places today.
Maybe you noticed the story in the last week of a celebrity at the place where she works out in L.A. She had “snapchatted” a photo of herself with her hand over their mouth as if she were in shock.
Over her shoulder you could see the backside of an unclothed elderly woman changing in the distance. The celebrity captioned her photo “If I can’t unsee this then you can’t either.”
Right now she’s in the midst of being prosecuted by the district attorney’s office of LA. Because you can’t go taking pictures of people in changing rooms without their permission and circulating them. Not only that but she’s currently been banned from most every franchise fitness facility in LA – with her picture posted.
She may have been trying to be funny but she’s being accused of body shaming. Why? Because even as immoral as our society can be, there’s something deep within us that knows how closely shame and being exposed is connected with the vulnerability of being unclothed.
How many of you remember the Iraq war prison scandal of Abu Gharib? It’s the one where a few American soldiers took some Iraqi prisoners and stripped them naked. Not even to interrogate them. Just to humiliate them. It was scandalous even to many Americans who considered the Iraqi prisoners enemies.
- Think about hanging on a cross totally exposed – with no way to cover yourself.
- Jesus’ experience of the cross was one of profound shame – the public mocking of a naked and weak dying man.
- My friend Jonathan Storment wrote a powerful blog about this recently saying that in crucifying people this way, Rome was saying publicly to everyone watching – “Mess with us and this is what happens.”
- “We’ll strip you bare, parade you through your people’s capital city and let you suffocate to death nailed to a cross in front of your friends and family who are brave enough to stay and watch.”
- This is how Rome kept people in line.
- It’s not just the threat of suffering but shame.
- A Roman cross was a place of shame, and Jesus went there.
- Now if you believe Jesus arose from the dead and is the Son of God then you believe that what happened at the cross has spiritual meaning.
- Because that’s what Jesus said about the cross after had arisen from the dead.
- That event has something to do with the forgiveness of our sins, being restored to God, and all the blessings that come with it.
- And one of the blessings is the removal of our shame.
- Because Jesus took it on Himself.
- And the act of Him being exposed is an expression of this on the cross.
VI Shame In The Garden
- Now remember that scene in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2 with Adam and Eve?
- Before sin ever entered the picture, we read this in Genesis 2:25 – Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
- In Genesis 3 sin enters the picture and what’s the first thing they do?
- Genesis 3:7 says – So they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
- They hide parts of themselves from one another – they make coverings for themselves.
- Shame has entered the picture.
- And then they attempt to hide from God in the trees.
- God comes walking in the Garden – looking for them.
- But it’s not to punish them.
- Now there is discipline, but ultimately He comes looking for them in order to help them move forward in a world where sin and shame have entered the picture.
- And in the course of things, what does He does do by the end of chapter 3?
- He makes better coverings for them – animal skins.
- God sheds the blood of innocent creatures to make a covering so that Adam and Eve can go forward.
- God moves toward them in their shame though they want to take evasive action.
- That’s the story of all of us.
- In our sin and shame we want to take evasive action from God and yet God is ever moving toward to us to help us to deal with it.
- What He does in the garden is what He ultimately does through Jesus at the cross.
- He moves toward us in our shame and takes it on Himself.
- Hanging naked on the cross is an expression of Jesus being clothed in our shame – taking on our shame.
- He’s lives with being uncovered while Adam and Eve are doing everything they can to cover themselves.
- And He does it that we might have the opportunity to be clothed in His righteousness and wholeness.
VII A King Like No Other
- Jesus dying on the cross so exposed is no small thing.
- And it’s yet another thing I think of when I hear someone say, “This Jesus and Christianity stuff is all the same – there’s really not much difference between it and any other religion – they’re all pretty much the same story.”
- As if there’s a lot of stories and religions down through history that have gods dying deaths naked and publicly on a cross!
- Jesus is King, but He’s not like any other king we’ve ever encountered.
- And I’m not just talking about His power.
- I’m talking about His humility, sacrifice, and lengths He goes to for our forgiveness, wholeness, and freedom from shame.
- So what difference does what Jesus faced on the cross of shame make in our journey to move beyond all shame?
Jesus On The Cross Of Shame…..
- Is The Way We Move Beyond All Shame When It Comes Our Sin.
- Many of us have sin or a wrongdoing in our life which absolutely no one else knows about.
- It’s never been exposed nor have we ever felt exposed in regard to it.
- But we still feel shame because of our consciousness of Jesus.
- We know He knows.
- But do we know the significance of Jesus on the cross of shame?
- As 2 Corinthians 5:20 says – God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
- When Jesus hung on that cross, he became one with our sin which gave a whole new meaning to the cross being a cross of shame.
- Jesus entered into our alienation from God and exposure before God.
- We know it because He tasted of a distance from God – a distance that we deserved – a distance that He expresses in the words – My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46)
- He took our shame.
- You see being a follower of Christ doesn’t just mean we give Him our lives.
- It means we give Him our shame.
John White is a psychiatrist and author who’s also a devout follower of Jesus. He tells the story of one of his days as a medical student. For one of his classes, he missed a practicum about venereal disease and had to make it up at the clinic. When he arrived at the clinic he ended up in a line with a bunch of patients who had actually contracted a venereal disease. White barged up to the front and told the head nurse, “I need to see the doctor.”
“That’s what everybody says,” snorted the nurse, “now get in line.”
“But I’m a medical student.”
“Big deal,” said the nurse, “You got it the same way as everybody
else; now you can stand in line like everybody else.”
John White went on to say this:
“In the end I managed to explain to her why I was there, but I can still feel the sense of shame that made me balk at standing in line with the other men who had a venereal disease. Yet Jesus entered the line with us and took on the shame though He had no sin or shame Himself. And the moral gulf that separated him from us was far greater than that separating me from the men at the clinic.… He crossed the gulf, joining our ranks, and embraced us.”
- Through His sacrifice on the cross of shame, Jesus says to all of us in regard to the shame of our sins – “Here, let me take that.”
- 2. Is The Way We Move Beyond All Shame When Others Try To Shame Us.
- Sooner or later in life, one lives long enough and they’ll experience what it’s like to be shamed by people around them.
- When we are the subject of others shaming, it’s important to remember that we are not alone.
You’re “shamed” by some as a prude because you’re 25 and still a virgin.
You’re “shamed” by some as a boring because you’ve never been high or drunk.
You’re “shamed” by some as soft because you didn’t retaliate against someone who did something to you.
You’re “shamed” as a loser because you lost a game.
You’re “shamed” as a failure because you filed bankruptcy.
- The list can go on and on.
- The problem is if we think we’re all alone in being shamed – we can jump to all sorts of conclusions about ourselves and take all sorts of actions that can complicate our lives all the more with terrible consequences.
- But we’re not alone.
- When we talk to Jesus, we are talking to One who’s faced it more fully and deeply than we can possibly imagine.
When Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsy were being kept in the Nazi concentration camp Ravensbruck, they would routinely be stripped and force to undergo examinations by Nazi doctors and humiliation. One day, it occurred to Corrie, as she was silently praying through it, that she was praying to someone who understood. She turned to her sister Betsy and whispered, “Betsy, He hung on a cross naked.”
Betsy whispered, “We are not alone.”
And then Betsy followed with this, “I’ve never thanked Him for it, till now.”
- If you’ve been in a stretch recently of being shamed by others – you’re not alone.
- Don’t let the bullies, don’t let the haters, don’t let the trolls in cyber-space, don’t let people who are so lost themselves, tell you who you are.
- You take it to the One who’s been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt when it comes to dealing with the shaming of others.
- You bring Him your pain in prayer and in opening up to another follower of His.
- But don’t be intimidated by it.
- Don’t let it be your counselor in terms of what you should do.
- We’re following One who faced far more public shaming than we ever will.
- He stayed focused on the mission at hand and the joy set before Him of being with His Father in heaven.
- And He’ll help us to do the same.
- In the meantime, anytime we feel shame in front of others it’s a pretty good opportunity to refocus ourselves on the reality that He is unashamed of us.
- He went to the cross of shame for us.
- And speaks of being unashamed of us in the heavenly realms.
- The Hebrew writer puts it this way in Hebrews 2:11-12
Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.”
- He’s not ashamed of you or me.
- He hung on a cross for you and me to take the shame off of you and me.
- So like I said last week – for everyone who’s ever said “Shame on you,” I say, in Christ, “Shame off you.”
- So why should we be ashamed of ourselves?
- And even more so, why would be of Him?
Beyond All Shame
The Cross Of Shame