As we finish our series on honour and shame, we visit the prophet Zephaniah to hear one last, beautiful hope: of a great day when God’s people will not be put to shame, and when God will rejoice over them with singing. This is the hope that the gospel gives us, and the hope that will one day be fully realised, when God covers our shame and we meet him face-to-face.
When we’re tempted to feel shame because of the gospel, we have a choice: to look at the immediate, felt reality of feeling ashamed, or to look to Christ and the honour that he’s clothed us in, and to not be ashamed of the gospel. In this talk, Wes Redgen helps us think through this choice that we all face, and some ways to hold fast to our faith.
When we’re reading the Bible, we can often hear guilt as the main singer, and shame as the back-up singer, on the side of the stage. But in this talk, Wes Redgen (New Testament lecturer at QTC) helps us to hear both the singers, singing in harmony, in the centre-stage of the gospel.
Union with Christ is one of the greatest realities spoken of in the Bible. But God only tells us what it’s like with word images: it’s like a vine, it’s like a body, it’s like a marriage. And so, as Paul prays, we need the “eyes of our hearts to be enlightened,” so that we can catch a passing glimpse of this great reality. Union with Christ is the fabric of all salvation history, and when we’re caught up in this great story, we’re invited to find ourselves by looking outside of ourselves: by looking up at Christ, and by looking out at others, with whom we’re united in Christ.
In this great parable, Jesus tells a story of a Father and his two sons, and how they both dishonour their father. Instead of rejecting them, though, the Father mercifully invites them both to feast with him. For the son who returns from squandering his Father’s money in “wild living,” the Father shamefully runs to him to kiss him, gives him his own robe, and kills the fattened calf for him: all incredible images of God’s self-shaming, self-sacrificing love for those who come to him in their shame.
In this split-talk, Sam and Philip start thinking about how to break the cycle of shame; what habits we can be putting in place to be making sure that our shame is being brought into the light of Christ. In the first half of the talk, Sam looks at the idea of being vulnerable about our sin and shame before Jesus, through the lens of Jesus and Peter’s conversation in John 21. Then, Philip speaks about how God re-clothes us in Christ, and how Christ’s honour has started cycles of honour throughout his body. God has made us into a new family, and so he calls us to lead the way in honouring our brothers and sisters, related by the blood of the Lamb, precisely because they are honoured in Christ.
Even if we don’t often think in these terms, every culture places different people, spaces, animals, food and time into categories of clean and unclean. In the book of Leviticus, God is doing the same: drawing these boundaries for his people, to give them a map leading to holiness. But when Jesus came, he re-drew this map, to extend the boundaries to even the most shameful and “unclean” people who trust in him, whose lives are redeemed by his perfect honour and purity.
In Genesis 4 we see the cycle of shame continue from Adam and Eve to their children. In this chapter, shame leads to sin, which leads to shame, which leads to sin. And we can see this cycle continue through God’s people and through families as we keep reading through Scripture. For all of us, there are many ways that we can get lost in the cycle, and that we can try to hide from our shame. But it’s only in Christ that we can find a place for our shame where it’s truly healed and restored.
This is the story of when shame first entered the world; from the first humans being “naked and without shame,” to sewing fig-leaves together to hide and cover their nakedness. In this story, we can see the hiding and blame-shifting that ashamed people have always shown, but we can also see hope. The hope of one day being able to be naked and without shame, the hope of God clothing us with something greater, as he clothes Adam and Eve in the end of the chapter, and as he ultimately clothes humanity with the ultimate honour in Christ.
In Western culture, we tend to think and make decisions according to right and wrong; whether we will be innocent or guilty because of something. But in many other cultures, and in the culture the Bible was written to, they thought in terms of honour and shame. And in many ways, our culture works according to the values of honour and shame, but without having a language for it. In this first talk of the series, Sam gives us an overview of shame in our culture and in the Bible. He starts by looking at the idea of being made in God’s image, and how that should speak into our shame.