Shame keeps us from doing things.
It stops us owning up to mistakes we have made.
John realised with a jolt that the figures in the presentation he was giving were completely wrong, because he had used the wrong month’s data in his calculations. It had been going so well. Ashamed, he decided to plough on in hope that no one noticed.
It stops us getting close to people who are in a mess they made, lest it rubs off on us.
Julie was surprised by her friend’s confession of flirting with a friend at work. Sure, Julie herself was conscious of exactly the same struggle last year, but had been spared when her colleague got promoted to another office. Having told no one about the thoughts that played regularly across her mind, she wasn’t about to start now. Her friend would just have to feel the shame alone.
It makes us hot to defend ourselves under fire, to make sure the mud can’t stick.
Tina interrupted again to make sure everyone understood it could not have been her that dropped the ball. She had been ill on the day the email demanding an explanation had arrived in the team inbox.
It leaves us lonely and hopeless.
Barry sat on his bed, crushed by the echoes of the slammed door as his wife, furious to discover the overdrawn bank account, stormed off to her mother’s house. He had messed up, so badly, but he had no idea what to do. He had friends at church, but which of them could he tell? They would never think of him the same way again.
To all of these people, shame would stick, sooner or later, in some way. Shame they deserved, shame they brought on themselves. And that shame stood in their way, turning them away from wisdom and love and humility and hope.
At the cross, Jesus faced eternal shame for an infinity of wrongs he never did, and to be labelled a blasphemer for claiming only what he was! Those shames might have stood in his way, kept his feet on the ground, and his head down, reputation intact.
But instead he scorned the shame of the cross. He saw the power shame might hold to keep him from purest love, and he scorned it. He pushed it forcibly away from him, out of his way. He owned the mistakes of others. He identified with murderous sinners. He refused to defend himself. So he could be sure that we would always have the help we needed in our shame. His help, his personal presence, his word and his Spirit.
John remembered Jesus, and changed his mind. “I’m sorry”, he said, “I see I’ve used the wrong figures there. I’ll get an accurate summary to you as soon as I can.”
Julie remembered Jesus, and repented. “I’m humbled that you told me about this. I went the same way last year but never told anyone, my heart was a total mess. Can we pray together?”
Tina remembered Jesus, and spoke up. “Hey, I’m in this too. I got back the next day and ignored the backlog. I’ll go and see the boss to apologise and see what we can do.”
Barry remembered Jesus, and picked up the phone. “Hey mate, sorry it’s late, listen, can we talk? I could really use some help.”
Jesus loved us by refusing to let shame get in his way. Who wants to follow him?