Shame: a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour.
It honestly devastates me how many times people have told me they wouldn’t come to church because they were not in the “right space” or because they were not living a “good” life. In the last few years I have come into contact with many people living in shame, living in a way that they know is not right yet taking no action because they do not want to share their wrongs for fear of judgement or being outcast. And over these years, I have come to the realisation that this shame does not only affect a select few, but is rather a mindset of many, constructed by other’s self righteousness and lack of humility when it comes to their mistakes and sin. The reality is, shame has become a major problem in the church (and I mean church in the sense of a collective people)- becoming a barrier to people’s breakthrough as well as causing us to separate ourselves from others for fear of being judged.
Therefore, as I thought about this, my heart aching for those who miss out on the opportunity to experience close relationship because of this shame, I began to identify some of the issues created through this mindset:
- Shame boxes us in and prevents us from living a wide open, spacious life as described in 2 Corinthians 6:11-13 (MSG)
- It prevents us from growing closer in relationship with Jesus as we realise we fall short of deserving His grace (Yet He extends it to us anyway because He is a compassionate Father)
- Shame prevents us from growing closer in relationship with others as we compare ourselves to them and believe we are not good enough
- And lastly, shame, in reality, is the reason that many feel they cannot step foot in a church, that they cannot enter the place where they should feel the most accepted and loved DESPITE their circumstances.
So what’s the solution? The cure to shame is LOVE, GRACE and ACCEPTANCE without needing to know the ins and outs of another’s life, before asking questions, before knowing the reality of another person’s shortcomings.
In John 8:7, a story we all know well, Jesus extends grace toward a woman about to get stoned as she is found guilty of adultery. He says to the Pharisees: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”. Jesus acknowledges that in His Father’s eyes, all sin is seen equally, and therefore since we are all born into sin, no one has the right to judge another apart from God.
The fact is, people know when they are in the wrong. We do not need to remind them of that. But rather, as Jesus does in this story, “But Jesus bent down” (Verse 6) we need to adopt a stance of love, bending down and getting on the same level as those around us. No one here on earth is superior or inferior when it comes to sin. Our mission is to love boundlessly and most importantly, to remind people that because of Jesus, we do not need to live in shame, or in fear. We need to live our lives governed by His grace, forgiveness, and by His undeserved love because when Jesus died on the cross for us, He actually carried our shame with Him and broke the strongholds of sin that so easily entangle us. (Hebrews 12:1)
Therefore friends, my challenge to you (as well as to me!) is to combat the strongholds of shame through loving others fully, accepting them as they are and walking the journey with them, not reminding them of their wrongs but rather helping them through the valley seasons, out of sin and shame and into a wide open spacious life. Through this, I really believe things will start to change, and hearts will soften toward the incredible salvation we can only find in Jesus.
And finally, if you are living behind a mask of shame, I want to remind you that Jesus died for YOU so that you could experience His grace and live freely in relationship with Him. We’re all sinners, we all make mistakes and I encourage you to take a step out, come to church, join a Bible study, get to know people and you will soon realise that we are all figuring ourselves out, and holding onto His promises that we are forgiven through Him and that “His mercies are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23)