The Gospel for Shame

Among the realities that are bundled into forgiveness is that the gospel is for our sin and shame.

Shame identifies that we are unacceptable. Dirty and disgraced. Sent away. Distanced from people and God’s promises. We notice that life can feel more like death. We become unacceptable because of our own sin; we also become unacceptable because of our association with things connected with death such as weakness, disease, and the sins of others. No matter how sin-death gets its hands on us, it brings shame, and shame must receive the appropriate remedy.

 

We cannot miss the opportunity to talk about the gospel for shame in this particular era. The glory of Christ is that forgiveness of sin is through him alone. Jesus is the Lord God. We come to the Father through his death for sin as our substitute. Then, for the rest of time, we consider the endless meaning and application of this gospel, for which forgiveness of sins is a kind of shorthand. Among the realities that are bundled into forgiveness is that the gospel is for our sin and shame.

Shame identifies that we are unacceptable. Dirty and disgraced. Sent away. Distanced from people and God’s promises. We notice that life can feel more like death. We become unacceptable because of our own sin; we also become unacceptable because of our association with things connected with death such as weakness, disease, and the sins of others. No matter how sin-death gets its hands on us, it brings shame, and shame must receive the appropriate remedy.

In the Old Testament sacrifices were made (1) for sins committed and (2) for skin diseases, contact with a dead body, menstrual bleeding, being in a family that has been polluted by the behavior of a member, and many other reasons that were not one’s fault yet caused shame. This second category is not an occasion for confession (though we need no occasion for confession) but it is an occasion for cleansing and coming near, and this is found through blood.

The woman with persistent bleeding is from this second category (Luke 8:43-48). She understood that only Jesus could cleanse her from her shame so she quietly yet confidently approached him. Her faith—her connection—to Jesus was symbolized by human touch, which indicated that she was now brought close into his holiness and was no longer identified as one-who-bled. Jesus could have said, your sins are forgiven but here he said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

With the paralytic man, Jesus did say, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2). In other words, forgiveness of sins is the assurance that the man has been forcibly taken from death and all its associates. His new connection to Jesus was expressed as physical wholeness and health. The man was not lame because of his particular sins, just as the man born blind was not blind because of his particular sins. But forgiveness of sins was shorthand for a wholesale redemption and cleansing that came from an association through faith with the Life Giver himself.

Read More