READ : Romans 10:11
We’ve all felt ashamed at some time or other, sometimes by our own actions, sometimes by the actions of others, but we’d like you to know the joy and relief of being unashamed.
Here is a word of invigorating hope, a truth from God to live by: “All who trust in him shall be unashamed.” Doesn’t that lift your spirits, quicken courage? I get new strength from those words every time I come across them.
The apostle Paul has just been explaining the good news of Christ: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Then to drive home the point, to anchor the promise, he cites this mighty Old Testament assurance: “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” Or as I like to render it, “All who trust in him shall be unashamed.”
That’s what I’d like to be: unashamed. No one enjoys feelings of shame. Most of us try to avoid them at all costs. We don’t relish embarrassment. We shrink from disgrace. To have a life free of shame – that sounds good, right?
ASHAMED OF WHAT YOU’VE DONE
Maybe you’re struggling now with a sense of inner shame over something you’ve done. You’ve hurt someone you love – hurt them deeply. Now the damage is done and you can’t reverse it. You’re having a hard time living with yourself. You feel ashamed.
Or maybe you’ve betrayed a trust. An important person in your life had counted on you, believed in you, and you’ve let them down. Perhaps they don’t even realize it yet, but it’s eating away at you. How could I do such a thing? How could I be so false to him, to her, and to myself?
Sometimes we feel ashamed over what we haven’t done. Someone in the family needed our help, wanted our support, but we were too preoccupied. We couldn’t be bothered then. Now it’s too late; we’ll never get that chance again. We don’t like to think about it. Every memory of our failure brings fresh shame. When a friend’s reputation was at stake and you could have spoken in his defense, you were silent. When a sordid injustice was done and your influence might have prevented it, you feared the important people involved and you looked the other way. Now when the thought of that comes back to you, you feel the blood rushing to your face. Sometimes you’re almost sick with the shame of it.
Now I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t be ashamed. If we’ve sinned, if we’ve broken God’s law, if we’ve turned our backs on him, if we’ve hurt people or failed them badly, shame is an appropriate response. In a strange way, it can be a message from God, a gift of grace. When we can sin brazenly, when we can share in ugly evils and feel no shame, something altogether tragic has happened to us. The most withering indictments that God delivered to his people through the prophets addressed that very hardness: they had forgotten how to blush. So calloused were they, so dull in conscience, so insensitive to the pain they had caused that they felt no shame at all. It is more painful, but more hopeful, too, to have an awakened conscience, to taste the bitterness of shame.
But remember, you’re not meant to live with that, to carry it around all your days like a brand in the flesh. God doesn’t want you to wallow in it indefinitely. Shame, like pain in our physical bodies, is a warning signal. It tells us that something has gone wrong; it alerts us to danger. It’s the sign of an illness which cries out for attention and treatment.
Listen, friends, all who trust in him will be unashamed. The gospel of Jesus Christ has the remedy for what you’re going through. Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, died long ago for your sins. You wrestle with unresolved guilt, but his forgiveness can take it away. You feel soiled, but his poured-out life can cleanse all the stains. You’re haunted by remorse, pursued by shame, but his mercy sets you free and gives you a new beginning. No matter what you’ve done or failed to do, confess it all to him. Trust Christ as your redeemer and be at peace. Forgiven by him, you can forgive yourself now and leave the guilty past behind. It’s a new day for you. All who trust in him shall be unashamed.
ASHAMED OF YOURSELF
But it may be today that you are ashamed about something that isn’t sinful at all. You’re ashamed of your appearance because you’re overweight or have blemishes on your face. You’re embarrassed about your height or afraid to smile because your teeth need straightening. None of this, of course, is your fault, but you still feel miserable about it, almost apologetic for being alive.
Some people are ashamed of their homes. They’d rather not have anyone come and visit them because their house is small, scantily furnished, or in a deteriorating neighborhood. If you drop in on them, they’re immediately, painfully defensive. Where they live, what they have, seems to them so shabby and worthless.
We can be ashamed of the people close to us, our own family members. A husband doesn’t take his wife out socially because he fears that his friends will find her unattractive or be amused at her talkativeness. Or a wife may never want the office staff to meet the plain-looking man she married. You’ve seen children who were ashamed of their parents, didn’t want a visit from them during college years, resented being identified with them in any way. And perhaps you know parents who are always trying to keep their handicapped or troubled children out of sight lest they spoil the family’s image in the community.
Some people feel overcome with shame if they fail an exam, if they lose a crucial ball game, if they’re rejected by a lover. We may tell them that they shouldn’t be ashamed, that it’s not their fault, but the painful feelings linger. They feel marked by their circumstances and surroundings as inferior. They feel as though the whole world scorns them, so they reproach themselves. They can scarcely lift up their heads.
All of that, friends, is false shame, groundless self-despising, though it still can make us miserable. But here’s the good news again: “All who trust in him shall be unashamed.” That’s the way out. The Christian faith announces that God has created us and has said about his handiwork, “That’s good.” He has made me in his image, a creature of worth and dignity. He has given me his very best, his beloved Son, and welcomed me as one of his own children. I’m chosen; I’m loved; I’m his; my life matters.
How marvelously that kind of faith can buttress self-respect! I’m accepted just as I am. I’d like others to admire my appearance, appreciate my surroundings, respect my family and friends, but I’m not dependent on their approval for my right to exist. I am who I am, a person in my own right, and I don’t have to apologize for being me. If I trust in a Lord like Jesus, for whom every human life is precious, I can stand tall. I can live unashamed.
PUT TO SHAME
But we still haven’t gotten to the main thrust of this remarkable promise. Up to now, we’ve been speaking about our feelings of shame, what goes on inside us because we’ve acted rottenly or because we don’t like something about ourselves. But shame is sometimes an objective thing, brought on us by others. Someone else puts you in an embarrassing position, exposes you to scorn and disgrace. Enemies hold you up to ridicule. However you may feel about it, they put you to shame.
Do you remember what happened to some of King David’s men when he sent them on a friendly mission to the Ammonites? Because the motives for this embassy were misunderstood, the Ammonite king “took David’s servants, shaved off half the beard of each, and cut off their garments in the middle, at their hips, and sent them away.” What a humiliation! They were put to an open shame. Sometimes when a king is defeated in battle, he’s forced to walk in chains behind the chariot of his conqueror or to eat scraps beneath his table. The once-proud monarch was shamed by the victors. That sort of thing happens today in political feuds. A newspaper editorial appears charging some respected public official with gross indecency. Whatever the man may have done or not done, that broadside attack “puts him to shame.”
The servants of God are by no means immune to such injury. In fact, they seem to get more than their share. I remember reading recently from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah. Here was a prophet dedicated to God, intent on doing his will. He was bringing to his people an authentic message, with deep concern for their welfare. But for his effort, he got nothing but abuse. They called him a liar and a traitor. He was publicly scorned by the authorities and lowered into a well to wallow helplessly in the mire. His enemies did everything they could to discredit and disgrace him.
But even that treatment seems mild compared to what Christ received. He was preeminently the servant of the Lord. He was the beloved Son in whom the Father was well pleased. He spoke nothing but truth, did nothing but good, trusted in God throughout his whole life. But who was ever put to more shame than he? He was accused and falsely convicted of lying and blasphemy. He was reviled, slapped, spit upon by those who professed to uphold justice. They put a purple robe on him, crowned him with a circlet of briars, and gave him mock worship. He was publicly executed by one of the most humiliating, horrible means ever devised. Not content with that, his enemies made fun of him while he suffered, wagging their heads in scorn.
How then can we understand this promise: “No one who believes in him will be put to shame”? Doesn’t that very thing happen to believers every day? Aren’t they put to shame? Didn’t it happen supremely to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith? Maybe you are tasting the bitterness of it right now, even though you’ve trusted in God and tried to do what’s right.
But this promise of God takes the long view. God doesn’t assure us that we will never meet with mockery and disgrace, that we will never be put to shame in the eyes of men. What he does pledge to us is that we will not finally be put to shame, not be disappointed in our hope. That’s what this word put to shame really means here: “disappointed.” Remember how the apostle Paul says in Romans, chapter 5: “Hope does not disappoint us”? It’s that same word: “Hope won’t put us to shame.” If your trust is in God, he’ll see you through. He’ll not abandon you; he’ll not let you down.
Here’s the decisive question: Is the God made known in the history of Israel and in the person of Jesus really Lord? Is his Word true, his salvation sure? Believers are always being badgered about that. When they pass through suffering, when their cause is unpopular, when the world jeers, the taunt comes, “Where is your God?” When a terrible thing happened once in the life of a young man in my first congregation, some of my people were asked the next day at work, “What do you think of your Jesus now?” And in the worst sufferings of our Lord, the question was raised whether God would stand by him. His murderers said, “He trusts in God. Let him deliver him now – if he wants him.”
But Jesus was not finally put to shame, was he? He wasn’t disappointed in his hope. As the writer to the Hebrews put it, Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” God vindicated him. God raised him from the dead. God turned that cross, emblem of shame, into a throne of glory for his Son.
And that gives you a glimpse of what he will do for you. If you trust in God through Christ and commit your life unreservedly to him, you may be laughed at, you may be falsely accused, you may be publicly disgraced, but at the last, for having believed, you won’t be disappointed. When the dust settles, when the truth comes to light, when the books are opened at last, all who trust in him will be “unashamed.”