`I will unashamedly make Him known through my words and actions.”
In the first chapter of Romans Paul writes, with what reads like a loud voice, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.’
I’ve read that verse many times. My eyes have always been drawn to the promise of the verse, that the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all. I’ve also always read the first words, I AM NOT ASHAMED, as some sort of chest beating moment of masculinity. Paul, in a show of strength, his heckles raised, standing up to be counted. This verse has echoed in my life as some sort of rallying cry for evangelism.
But what is it about the gospel that means we are at risk of being ashamed of it? What is it about shame that stands in opposition to the sharing of the gospel.
A lot of the shame we feel about the gospel can be summed up in three ways.
We are ashamed of our past or our present
Our evangelistic voices are often silenced by an over-awareness of the failures in our own life. A great lie of the enemy is the one which tells us that in order to preach a message of transformation we must ourselves be completely transformed. This is levelled at the church regularly as we are called hypocrites. If we feel like the shame of a hypocrite or we have it levelled against us then somewhere along the way the message has gotten mixed up. We were never meant to be getting it all right. This shame that we are not living up to some unrealistic expectation that Jesus doesn’t expect of us anyway can stop us from sharing the very message that means that shame is misplaced.
We are ashamed of looking intellectually inferior
We’ve all thought it. “if I speak up at this moment I could be asked hundreds of questions I don’t know the answer to. The last thing I want is to look stupid and make Jesus look stupid.” It’s an incredibly understandable thought but it is based in shame that tells us we don’t know enough, we don’t understand enough and that somehow the God who created all things, who knows all things and can do all things is somehow reliant upon whether we can answer a question. The shame of looking stupid keeps us silent in sharing the good news of a gospel that is foolishness to those who don’t believe.
We are ashamed of looking weak
‘Your faith is a spiritual crutch.’ It’s been levelled at me on numerous occasions. When I was a younger man I reacted with some attempt at looking strong or an arrogance drizzled challenge that they couldn’t live my faith. Nowadays though I just agree, because it is true, in fact that is the whole deal. I can’t do this on my own and I need Jesus to carry me. If that makes me weak so be it. This was a great shame to me in the past, that I needed God’s help. Many of us have been pre-programmed by culture to portray ourselves as strong and sorted when really we are vulnerable and need help. We are ashamed of our weakness in a world that sometimes feels like only the strong survive. This shame in our weakness silences our voices that should be shouting of the hope of the God who is strong in our weakness.
Shame is an identity crisis. Shame is an assault on our identity designed to disarm and silence us. Shame speaks a half truth about our pasts, our folly and our weakness but forgets the other half that in these things Jesus is all sufficient. Our identity in Him is cut off by shame leaving us only with the very things He came to redeem.
The shame that keeps us from sharing the gospel is only dismantled by allowing ourselves to be immersed in it. We dismantle shame when we meditate on who He is and who He says we are; what He has done and what it means for us. Shame is a twisting of the gospel, spending time with it’s author straightens out the twists.
Shame silences our voice and makes us compliant, the gospel of Jesus and His Kingdom makes us loud and dangerous.
We must not be ashamed of the gospel, of its restoration of our brokenness, of its folly in light of the world’s wisdom or its strength in our weakness. We must overcome shame because the world needs to hear of the King and His Kingdom.