Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. (1 Cor. 1:26-27)
One of the most destructive life-stealing forces in a human heart is shame. The voice of shame in our head says, “There is something wrong with me!” and those words pierce the inner depths of our soul because, deep down inside of us, we know that those words are true. There is something wrong with us and we know it, so we strive with all our might to cover up our fears of failure, inadequacy and weakness with high performance and pleasing appearances. But that does not remedy our situation, it only makes it worse, for we are adding the anxious shame of our imperfect performance and flawed appearance to the shame and anxiety that already exists in our flawed and love-starved heart.
Thankfully God has brought the remedy to our shame into the world, and he has done so in a way that is so opposite to the way humans think and function that it seems to the best and brightest among us to be utter foolishness that only an idiot would believe. We consider power, wealth and beauty to be effective and glorious. But God the Son came into the world in poverty and ordinariness. Writing prophetically, Isaiah said, “There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him” (Isa. 53:2). And then God chose the most shame-filled manner imaginable to accomplish the salvation of all creation. This God-human, named Jesus, willingly allowed himself to be beaten, flogged, and then stripped naked and nailed to a wooden cross to suffer the excruciating pain of crucifixion while “[t]he people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery” (Mt. 27:39).
If that had been where the story of Jesus ended, it would be utter foolishness to consider him worthy of anything more than our derision. But that was not the end of Jesus. On the third day that followed, Jesus came out of the cold, dark tomb where he had been laid with his old beaten and bloodied body restored, renewed and resurrected. The greatest force the world has ever seen for wholeness, healing and hope sprung to life from a womb of the deep shame, dark pain and utter helplessness. Why? Jesus stood in for all humanity and placed himself in his Father’s hands to suffer the punishment that we deserve for our sin. The stripping away of his human dignity and vigor put Jesus in the same state in which we find ourselves in our weakest and most embarrassing moments, only worse. The pain which Jesus suffered was akin to the pain we experience with severe injury or disease, only worse.
But the thing that we will never, never, ever experience that Jesus did is condemnation from God our Father. Jesus gathered up all of our guilt and shame and took it all away from us. Our heavenly Father knows our every humiliating weakness and shameful secret and yet, through Jesus, he unconditionally accepts us and infinitely loves us just as we are. We can freely admit our shame, guilt, fears and anxieties to God, and it will change nothing in our relationship with him. There is nothing that we can ever do that will make God love us any less than he already does, and there is nothing that we can do that will make God love us any more than he already does.
However, when we freely admit our weakness to God and live shamelessly before him, our soul overhears and is set free in the process. We can stop the charade we have been tirelessly trying to sustain because Jesus has made us a beloved, forgiven child of God. We can embrace our weakness because those are the places where Jesus has entered into our life. With Jesus, we have all the strength we will ever need.
Jesus’ love has conquered our shame.
Dear Jesus, thank you for loving me and coming in weakness to conquer my shame. Help me to grow in knowing the fullness of your love for me so I can live a shameless life with you. Amen.