Friday, June 01, 2007

Be not ashamed

I'm learning to get angry. Especially at racial oppression. I'm generally so repressed.

I'm getting better at just saying stuff that's at the back of my mind. The bible says that the fear of man brings a snare ...and whenever someone does something anti-Christian or anti-black to me I've been too afraid of seeming like a touchy black person or the idiotic ignorant Bible believer. That's how the world silences us by making us feel unclassy or stupid or unelightened. When we are too offended to talk about our faith, we are (what the Bible calls) "offended"

We have to learn to be honest and to speak our minds and often it's a battle between the shame we feel and the shame others might feel if we speak the truth to them. A friend of mine (a black man) recently saved a little white girl from being run over by a car. The little girl's racist mother yanked the baby from my friend as if my friend was tainted and diseased. My friend thought she was an idiot and didn't say anything. I told him he should have embarrassed and shamed her. Shame is a powerful tool and when you take away a person's power to shame a guilty cruel person you take away one way of enlightening the idiots into common sense and kindness. But of course shame only works on those who have a conscience.

So many people have been shamed in life. For some souls, shame is a seed that finds good ground to grow in, and as it grows it brings a forest of griefs. Other souls have consciences so seared, souls so worldly, and minds so ignorant that shame is hard-put to touch them. Not that we should Christians be going about trying to shame people.

How many of us have been shamed in life? How many of us haven’t? How many had cause to be shamed and actually deserved the shaming? Is shame ever deserved? And if it is, are humans the ones who should apply it? Or is there another force out there whose province is to uncover and cover our shame.

I, myself, have been shamed in many areas of my life. In the world, three things must combine to create shame. The soul – let’s call it the “ground” for the shaming seed to grow in, the person to speak the cruel shaming words, and the circumstances that will enable the shamer to judge his victim.

The Bible teaches us that things in-and-of themselves aren’t shaming. St Paul writes in Romans 14, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?” And in Colossians he states, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” So poverty, health issues, housecleaning skills, a short skirt, an ugly dress, are not evils.

Shame appears however, when a tender-hearted soul meets someone who is ready, willing, and able to judge her by human standards or tradition. There is no shame, for instance, in having no money. There are many reasons for not having money. Just as there are many reasons – psychological, physical, and genetic– for being fat, or sickly. Nor is a dirty house evidence of an immortal weak wife. But when we judge ourselves by the world’s standards, and when an arrogant person who thinks herself knowledgeable in all things enters our lives, then judgements are very likely to come and shaming begins. In fact, shame is closely aligned with mockery because the person doing the shaming often thinks that they represent the standards of the world. They imagine an invisible chorus behind them urging them on to enlighten the person they are shaming. That is, shamers judge and compare and always find others wanting because they think they represent the world’s opinion.

Now, it might seem as if I’m saying that shame is evil. Or good. Actually, no. Shame by itself is not a bad thing. And it's not a good thing either.

The world needs a lot of true shame. And the Bible tells us that humans have a very bad habit of glorying in what they should be ashamed about, or being ashamed about what they should be glorying about, or turning glorying into shame. (Phil 3:19; Hab 2:16, Ps 4:2, Hos 4:7)

The early Christians were happy that they were “worthy to suffer shame for the cross of Christ.” Acts 5:41
Paul states that he is not ashamed of the gospel. The implication is that people then – as they do now– were trying to make him ashamed of it.

In fact, there is a kind of shame that is very closely linked with spirituality. This shame often is felt within the spirit of a believer and often concerns his relationship with God, the rest of the community of believers, and the onlooking unbelievers.

The Psalmist often states, “Let not those who wait on you be ashamed for my sake.”
Jeremiah states “I was ashamed, yea even confounded.” Jer 31:19
Paul writes in Romans 5:5, “Hope makes not ashamed” and in Rom 9:33, “He who believeth in Him shall not be ashamed.”
Jesus states in Luke 9:26, “whoever shall be ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of.”
Paul writes, in 2 Ti 1:16, “You were not ashamed of my chains” and states in Heb 2:11, “Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brethren.” And in Heb 11:16, “God is not ashamed to be called their God.”

But the Bible makes it clear that shame is a thing that happens. The laws of God roll relentlessly and shame comes about of its own will. When some people try to shame another, he might be aligning herself with Satan, whom the Bible calls the Accuser of the Brethren.

In the Bible true shame is seen as a spiritual consequence of evildoing. Often, when people prayed against their enemies, they prayed that the enemies would become ashamed. If their prayers were answered, the shame would either be external for all to see -- an uncovering of their sins in the sight of all-- or a conviction within the evildoer’s heart that they have done something foolish in the sight of God. This is true shame. False shame, on the other hand, only satisfies the shamer and those she gossips to.

In the Bible, one can see many examples of people shaming other people. And one can see the spiritual and earthly outcomes of such shaming. Sometimes the shaming incident leads to good, but sometimes it leads to evil, spite, and bitterness. But in all cases, a spiritual law has been set in place and forgiveness and confession are often needed.

Jacob tried to shame his own daughter-in-law Tamar, and was convicted of his own sinfulness instead. Tamar, Absalom’s sister, was shamed; David handled it badly which caused trouble for his family in the end. Michal, David’s wife – upset that David was a trifle over-sexed– tried to shame him when he danced and accidentally showed his nakedness. In turn, David shamed her but telling her he would not sleep with her ever again. This was a seed David which David sowed, which combined with other bloody seeds he had sown, made him end up reaping a great harvest of grief. His son Absalom slept with all his wives and concubines – probably with the exception of Bathsheba because she was Ahitophel’s granddaughter– and David no longer had intercourse with them for the rest of his life. Other people in the Bible who were shamed were Samson, who was laughed at by his enemies. This shaming destroyed his will to live.

But others pushed past shame. The woman with the issue of blood didn’t make shame or the fear of man snare her into avoiding Jesus. She wanted healing. The harlot whose son was stolen in the night wasn’t too ashamed to ask Solomon for help. And Elizabeth pushed shame aside when she heard the good news that she would be a mother in her old age.

Shame, then, is an enemy of the believer. And, like many Satanic weapons, it often comes at us from the mouth and actions of an accuser.

Some people who use shame don’t have the gift of forbearance. Enslaved to their tongues and to their own opinions, they have no power to stop themselves from speaking their minds. When a shamer wounds someone else, they often say, “It was for her own good. I had to speak my mind. God knows someone needed to tell her this.” Because they do not consider their words unkind – indeed, they consider themselves helpful because they’re trying to get the shamed person to behave in an acceptable way– it never occurs to them that they have dug their graves with their teeth and that he who digs a pit will fall into it.

A minister, for instance, might rebuke a couple for living together in sin. He might call them out in front of the congregation and say, “Don’t shack up together, it’s a sin.” And I’ve heard of many ministers who have done this kind of thing. But I have never ever ever heard of a minister who did this to a couple who had many friends in the congregation, or to a couple from a powerful family? Because shamers edge their bets. They side with the majority, and they want to be known as siding with the majority. This is human nature and Jesus knew it.

We humans also know it. Often at the very moment a person shames us, we can see the envy or hatred or greed in their hearts. We know that what they say might be good for us to hear but taking their rebuke is like drinking from a fountain that brings for bitter and sweet water. We know that giving in to them kills and well as heals. We grow by their advice, but we also die because of it because their advice was meant to make us understand how small, imperfect, and unimportant we are compared to their perfect selves.

So then, now that we understand that humans shouldn’t go around shaming each other, what are we to do with the shame that has hounded us all throughout so much of our lives? We must hand it to Jesus. Like any sin, bitterness is powerless against the blood of the Lamb and the word of His testimony. Like any disease, shame is powerless against the blood which heals all our diseases.

If we continue living in shame, we cannot truly believe that we are God’s children. If the evil words spoken to our heart has found a place within our hearts, they will grow up alongside the good word Jesus has placed in our heart and soon both harvests will struggle against each other. How can we believe we are God’s loved children if our wounded hearts consider ourselves lowly worms, and grasshoppers? How can we pray for great things to happen in our lives when we are hating ourselves and believing that we don’t deserve it?

But there is something else about being shamed. Those who have been shamed are not guiltless either. Because we have been shamed, we also sometimes shame others. Shamed parents shame their children, shamed men shame their wives. Being shamed leads to a kind of inferiority/superiority complex. And this affects our prayers, often making us pray wrongfully, with the wrong purposes in mind. A shamed person might want a beautiful house, but very often they want the beautiful house because they want to “one-up” and “show” the one who shamed them. A shamed person may want to see God’s glory in her life – but at the same time, she wants others to see God’s working in her life also so that people will see – in a very selfish way– how much God loves her. This is what modern psychologists call The Cinderella Complex. A wounded soul is not satisfied with a good husband. That husband must be richer, and more handsome and more powerful than everyone else’s husbands, and especially the husband of the woman who shamed her. In short, a shamed person has a lot to prove. And because of this their prayers are not pure.

John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, considered shame such a powerful weapon against the Christian that he called it Tyrant Shame. But, brothers and Christians, we should not be enslaved to any tyrant. Our Father is the loving God of the universe and there is nothing we cannot conquer because “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. Romans 8:37

“Holy Spirit, let me know the Father’s love so that my heart may be healed from the false love others have given me. Lord Jesus, let me hear your “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Let me, accept your acceptance of me. Teach me to discern between true rebuke and false shame. And open my heart that I may receive all the love you wish to give me. I ask this of the Father in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
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