Shame means different things to different people. Sex and nakedness might be seen as shameful to some but celebrated by others. Honor to avoid shame even unto death is the type of shame Hollywood once made movies about. There is even a term called fat shamming to shame people who are fat into eating less. People every day in every culture are made to feel shame. Shame is not intended to be an abusive thing. In fact shame is a result of the fall and curse of man. In his book Future Grace John Piper lists shame before God as something of a cornerstone of Christian faith.
He states that shame is a results of a realization that we have offended God. In the Bible shame is a foundational concept from the beginning with Adam and Eve being “naked and not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25 ESV) to the end when Jesus tells us that nothing shameful will be allowed in His holy city (Revelations 21). Shame from sins against God, the rebellion in a heart, and all the ways of selfish ambition that humans pursue cling to people and manifest itself in different ways. Adam and Eve’s natural state was unashamed because they were not under any judgment before God. That unashamed state changed after they rebelled, but the good news is that God has undone that shame through Jesus to one day restore the unashamed state of creation. Although sins are shameful, through Christ one will not be put to shame by God. I myself am reconciled to my Creator because of His love, mercy, and grace.
For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. Romans 10:10-12 ESV
If Christ has removed my shame before God then why does society continually trying to shame others and why do I personally feel shame before other men? In this Piper lists a second kind of and this shame is not from God, but from ourselves because of the pressure we feel from society. The author of Hebrews writes that Jesus despised the shame that society placed on him. The shame of being beaten, the shame of a conviction that led to Him dying between thieves, the shame of betrayal by the hands of a close friend, and the shame of mockery from the crowd as they placed the crown of thorns on his head. He despised this shame directed at him by the culture and society.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 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 12:1-3 ESV
This might be one of my favorite descriptions “despising the shame” in the Bible. Like Jesus Christians must realize that as they obey and love the Father they too will face shame. That shame may not be death on a cross, but society will place shame on the follower of Christ. Insults of being stupid to follow a magical sky god or being backward in thinking that marriage is a unique relationship between a man and woman. Fellow believers it is time to learn to shake it off and even learn to despise the shame heaped on us by society so that we too can see the “joy” set before us. Paul in his letter to Timothy encourages Timothy to not be ashamed of the prison that Paul is in and to not be ashamed at the suffering that would come from sharing the good news about Jesus.
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God. 2 Timothy 1:8 ESV
When I think of this shame that society brings it is a personal shame that is very real for the person that must bear up under the glare of being pushed out of the market square. It is a shame for refusing to condone the sexualized nature of society, and a shame for believing that God is the creator and not a randomness that the every so sure atheist “scientist” demands everyone follow. However the most real and intense shame that I must learn to despise is that of sharing Jesus to a culture that thinks such things should be kept private.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16 ESV
Shame is not part of God’s plan for His children. It is time to stop placing shame on ourselves because of what other people think and remember that the only real shame has been undone by what Christ did on the cross for us.
* Revised and Updated: Originally published on Human Effort 2013