Free of Shame
Sermon by Pastor Mark Siler, 8/9/17
Christopher walked into my office one day with a stack of papers. His hands were shaking. He put them on my desk and said, “Chap. I want you to read these notes from the investigators. They are the details about the crimes I committed. I want you to help me understand what I have done and who I am.”
Paul tells us in verse 11 that “no one who believes in Him will be put to shame.” In our common usage of that word “shame”, it almost sounds like it is the same thing as “getting caught” or “being embarrassed”. It is not.
I think Paul is talking about the shame that is the fear, at our core, that we are not good enough, that we are fundamentally flawed. A common response to shame is to make ourselves feel better at the expense of somebody else. For Paul, this is unacceptable in the church. It betrays the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The Jewish Christian members, caught in shame’s grip, felt that they and their ways were superior and treated the Gentile members accordingly. The Gentile members, also caught in shame’s grip, felt that they and their ways were superior and treated the Jewish Christian members accordingly. Neither could recognize the valuable gifts and truth of the other.
In some sense, the entire letter of Romans is Paul’s attempt to point this out and point to the way out…giving our lives over to the God who put an end to shame by enduring it fully, and transforming it on the cross. Can we believe it? Can we believe it so much that we trust it? Can we trust it so much that we surrender to it and live it together?
For Paul, a personal and private faith is not enough. If we are to be formed as disciples and participate in the Good News, we have to act it out with each other. Christian community is constantly inviting us to practice the radical honesty, humility and forgiveness of Jesus.
Paul celebrates the courageous action of Christopher and offers a resounding “yes” to his question, which ultimately was “can I live free of shame?” Salvation is as near as we are to each other. It is already on our lips and in our hearts. If we can just call on it, believe it, give our hearts to it, practice it, share it, live it together, then we will be saved from shame…again and again and again. May it be so.