Finally, another passage to help us…
31 So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him?
33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect people? It is God who acquits them. 34 Who is going to convict them? It is Christ Jesus who died, even more, who was raised, and who also is at God’s right side. It is Christ Jesus who also pleads our case for us.
35 Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
We are being put to death all day long for your sake.
We are treated like sheep for slaughter.
37 But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. 38 I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers 39 or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. Romans 8:31-39 CEB
Amen. No more room for excessive shame. Plenty of room to feel appropriate shame when we forget who we are and who we are created to become.
Here’s another passage to help inform our thinking…
18 I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us. 19 The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters. 20 Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice—it was the choice of the one who subjected it—but in the hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 22 We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now. 23 And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. 24 We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? 25 But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.
26 In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. 27 The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will. 28 We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.29 We know this because God knew them in advance, and he decided in advance that they would be conformed to the image of his Son. That way his Son would be the first of many brothers and sisters. 30 Those who God decided in advance would be conformed to his Son, he also called. Those whom he called, he also made righteous. Those whom he made righteous, he also glorified. Romans 8:18-30 CEB
How does this change you? Does it knock your socks off? The Spirit helps. We are helped; we are helpers. This is how we roll.
14 All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. 15 You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The same Spirit agrees with our spirit, that we are God’s children. 17 But if we are children, we are also heirs. We are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ, if we really suffer with him so that we can also be glorified with him. Romans 8:14-17 CEB
If this is the attitude and perspective and tone and way of God – how can we do otherwise? As heirs we have everything we need. We do not need to live in shame or require others to survive our shaming ways.
And this causes us to suffer. We suffer because this world, “the flesh” as the book of Romans calls it, likes to cozy up to shame. So we must suffer with this propensity, and learn a new way. We must learn what it means to be adopted, children of Abba Father. We need new practices and new skills and new, inspired ways of seeing. We need to learn how to live with the truth of our humanity – the good, the bad and the ugly – without giving into shame as a way of life.
Suffering is never easy; shame is in some ways an easier short term option. It energizes us and can energize others to live in fear, not freedom. But heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ don’t roll with shame, although on occasion we will feel it. And if we are shame-drenched, our work will include healing from toxic shame.
At the beginning of this series we talked about that pendulum that swings wide, only to gradually find gravity doing its work, bringing it to relative calmness with a gentler arch that stays more centered and less prone to wild swings of extremism. I gotta tell you, we resist the middle ground. I suspect we find it easier to live in the black and white, all good/all bad world of judgment.
I don’t talk politics, even though I am actively interested and committed to responsible citizenship and informed voting. I’ve decided that the only times I’m willing to talk politics is when I can have a conversation with someone who is not CERTAIN about who the best candidate is in each election. I enjoy talking to people who are curious, who want to listen to other perspectives – especially people who do not share the same political leanings. This kind of discussion is educational and enlightening. It’s easier to talk with people who share our perspectives, but as Scott often reminds me, there are plenty of good people in each political camp – mostly trying to achieve the same goals, doing the best they can, with different ideas about how to accomplish these shared goals. Gosh. What would happen if we could drop our metaphorical (and sadly sometimes real swords) and lean on each other?
Shame in extremis shouts so loud that it refuses to listen. It enslaves us to this idea that we are so unworthy that we dare not give up any more of ourselves because we might disappear altogether. So we have to fight and judge and diminish others, just to even the playing field. Shame wants us to believe that we are so small, so broken, that we must do what we can to survive in a land of giants. Shame taken too far lies.
14 All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. 15 You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The same Spirit agrees with our spirit, that we are God’s children. 17 But if we are children, we are also heirs. We are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ, if we really suffer with him so that we can also be glorified with him. Romans 14-17 CEB
We are God’s children; we are heirs; we don’t need to fight for that which ALL of God’s children are given the right and responsibility to participate in – a shared Spirit. A Spirit not cowering in fear. A Spirit is not ashamed.
Here’s another passage that I believe condemns shame as a decision-maker while leaving room for a healthy dose of it to inspire us to gratitude.
So now there isn’t any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 God has done what was impossible for the Law, since it was weak because of selfishness. God condemned sin in the body by sending his own Son to deal with sin in the same body as humans, who are controlled by sin. 4 He did this so that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us. Now the way we live is based on the Spirit, not based on selfishness.5 People whose lives are based on selfishness think about selfish things, but people whose lives are based on the Spirit think about things that are related to the Spirit. 6 The attitude that comes from selfishness leads to death, but the attitude that comes from the Spirit leads to life and peace. 7 So the attitude that comes from selfishness is hostile to God. It doesn’t submit to God’s Law, because it can’t. 8 People who are self-centered aren’t able to please God. 9 But you aren’t self-centered. Instead you are in the Spirit, if in fact God’s Spirit lives in you. If anyone doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, they don’t belong to him. Romans 8:1-9
Here’s the thing about shame, it tells part of the truth. In one sense, we are all broken. There are things we cannot do without God doing them for us. When we live selfishly, we have stinking thinking. It leads nowhere good. But when we live life based on the Spirit, the Spirit leads to life and peace. We are no longer hostile to God. This means that shame is no longer the lead singer in our band. Yes, every now and again it sings a verse, and that’s ok because it serves as a reminder of how life can get off track if we don’t remember more fully, more completely, not just a part of the truth but the whole truth of what it means to be fully human. Flesh and Spirit. God with us, in us around us and among us.
If we allow shame to work on us but not overtake us, then we can tell ourselves the truth and maybe even confess our own sins and limitations. Shame improperly applied causes us to shrink, run, and hide. It says we are broken, beyond repair, unworthy. Shame lies if it is allowed to talk to long. That’s why MORE verses are needed to inform our situations more fully:
Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. 3 But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance,4 endurance produces character, and character produces hope.5 This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
6 While we were still weak, at the right moment, Christ died for ungodly people. 7 It isn’t often that someone will die for a righteous person, though maybe someone might dare to die for a good person. 8 But God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:1-8 CEB
Still sinners. Before we got our acts together and stopped doing shameful things. God shows his judgment? No way Jose! He shows his love for us. There is plenty of room for lots of emotions at the table, but to only give shame a voice at the table is to ignore the quiet, loving, sustaining voice of God himself.
I suppose you have noticed that we have not quoted scriptures this month to accompany our devotionals. For the month’s remainder, I’d like to spend time giving you a few scriptural examples that I believe set the tone that we have tried to create in this series. I pray these verses will guide us as we take time to meditate on their meaning, and perhaps even more important – help us hear God’s heartbeat.
Here’s a verse that can sound awfully shaming. And with our newfound perspective on shame as neither right nor wrong, but possibly inspirational and motivating…try to read it as such:
9 So what are we saying? Are we better off? Not at all. We have already stated the charge: both Jews and Greeks are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written, There is no righteous person, not even one. 11 There is no one who understands. There is no one who looks for God. 12 They all turned away. They have become worthless together. There is no one who shows kindness. There is not even one. 13 Their throat is a grave that has been opened. They are deceitful with their tongues, and the poison of vipers is under their lips. 14 Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. 15 Their feet are quick to shed blood; 18 There is no fear of God in their view of the world. 19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, in order to shut every mouth and make it so the whole world has to answer to God. 20 It follows that no human being will be treated as righteous in his presence by doing what the Law says, because the knowledge of sin comes through the Law. Romans 3:9-20 CEB
We are all under the power of sin. Too judgy? Too shaming? Or true? If true, then there is now no reason to judge others, after all, we are all bozos on the same bus. We are all in heaps of trouble unless God gets down here and saves, heals and restores us. Maybe our shame over this can inspire us, so long as it does not overwhelm us. To be continued…