Not all shame is the same

Yesterday morning I preached John 19:1-6 about the shaming of Jesus. If I may add a little something, there’s an important distinction about shame that I’d like to make explicit.

When we experience shame, it matters who is disgracing us and why they are doing it because some shaming should be despised and other shaming should lead us to repentance. This is important to note because it’s often missing in the work of some popular thinkers on this subject. These thinkers can be helpful, but they can also leave you confused or worse if you don’t include this distinction.

Shaming that we should despised is any shaming that would seek to make us ashamed of Jesus, who himself was did not fear or kowtow to the world’s demands.

Hebrews 12:2: “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.”

1 Peter 4:16: “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”

Mark 8:38: “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

We should never be ashamed of Jesus, his covenant, his kingdom, or the life he calls us to lead. But that doesn’t mean we should never feel shame at all. When God shames us, though painful, it is essential to let ourselves feel it and then respond with repentance. Read these rebukes from Jeremiah and Paul to people who refused to feel holy shame.

Jeremiah 6:15: “Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,” says the LORD.”

Philippians 3:19: “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”

When we feel ashamed because of our sins, we shouldn’t harden ourselves against the feeling. Instead we shuold respond to the convicting shame of God with repeantnace. We may be tempted to hide our shame instead, but the good news—which Paul is not ashamed of (Romans 1:16)—is that when we respond to godly shame with honesty about our sins, repentance for them, and faith in Jesus, God does not penalize us but forgives and restores us. “For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame’” (Romans 10:11).

Here’s my sermon if you haven’t heard it yet: The Shaming of Jesus. It’s about 30 minutes long.

Christopher Chelpka @christopherchelpka