READ: Psalm 83, Hosea 12, Luke 11, Corinthians 2
“Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek your name, O Lord!” (Psalm 83:16)
God’s goal for shame is redemption. There is a prominent Coptic priest in the Middle East who is very evangelical in his doctrine and practice. He has a television program in which he uses shock and shame to bring Muslims’ attention to what their text and faith actually stands for and teaches. He does this intentionally, knowing that the initial reaction to his approach is anger and hostility. Interestingly, he may be responsible for more Muslims coming into the Kingdom than any other man in history. Many Muslims testify that their initial reaction to him and his message is one of fury (for it exposes the inconsistencies and shameful aspects of their tradition) and as they set out to prove him wrong they stunningly found him accurate–and he is very careful to use their own texts and theologians as the sources for his revelations.
This is a microcosm of what God does for us. God brings to light the things that shame us in order that we might seek Him. Shame does not necessarily imply sin. There are some things that shame us that are not our fault. We may be bald, short, barren, have a high-pitched voice, or some other condition that is not a result of our rebellion–but all the same it is embarrassing. Shame sometimes results from the actions of others that we are associated with: family, friends, our organization, or some other proximate entity whose actions we do not approve or endorse. God uses both the shame of sin and of our connections to bring us to Himself. He does this by offering us the choice: are we going to find our identity in Him and accept that He is good enough and big enough to cover our shame, or are we going to frantically spend time and energy trying to cover (or change) that which embarrasses us? At the root of the issue is the level of consideration we give to what God thinks of us.
When sin is the cause of shame, God’s intention is for us to repent, to bring our sin and shame to Him, to lay it on the altar in full view of our mockers and our mourners, and to accept His forgiveness. Sin’s effects cannot be covered, but one miracle of grace is that when we confess our sins, Jesus removes our guilt and shame. We no longer care what others think about us, we just deeply desire His acceptance; and finding it, the sting of others’ reproach fades away. We find deep joy in being beloved of God. When shame is caused by some factor not of our sinful choosing, it works in a similar fashion for the flood of peace in accepting who God has made us to be swallows up the disappointment in what we do not have or in who we are not. The shame of lack is more than rewarded with the pride of fully having Jesus.