Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” John 4:10
How did Jesus relate to: 1.) The Shamed?
How do I try to connect with someone who lives with crippling shame? I read the Gospels with wonder when I see that Jesus knew just what to do. He did the will of the Father by removing shame and restoring honor. “I [God] will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.” Zeph.3:19 Peter, well acquainted with shame after denying Jesus, wrote “Whoever believes in him [Jesus] will not be put to shame. So the honor is for you who believe.” I Peter 2:6-7
Jesus built bridges of honor as he related to those who were alienated by shame. He reached out to the woman of Samaria and established honor by crossing two lines of bigotry; gender bias and racial discrimination. His final act of bestowing honor was to ultimately reveal that He was the Messiah, His first public admission.
Jesus built another bridge of honor with the woman caught in adultery. Her accusers cited the Law of Moses. They wanted her stoned. Jesus was silent, curiously writing something in the dirt, giving everyone moments of personal reflection. The accusers went silent and the sound of stones hitting the ground could be heard. Ultimately, he offered the woman mercy and gave her honor that was undeserved. It was reckless mercy to the Pharisees.
Those who suffer most from shame are the ones who are scared to tell us their stories. They have probably experienced bias. They feel unclean, unworthy, and cursed. I cannot tell them about Jesus unless I treat them without prejudice. I must build a bridge of honor by extending unconditional love. This does not mean tolerance and overlooking evil. It means being like God who loves the sinner but hates their sin. The ones in shame, even undeserved shame, look for confirmations of their unworthiness in the eyes of others. (I did it for years!) And how well I know, from personal experience, that if we come preaching, attempting to fix them with scripture ~ and all with an attitude of being above them, shame is deepened and honor becomes more elusive. Legalism cements shame.
I remember today that, before salvation, I was covered in my own shame and sin. I was unworthy and yet Jesus extended mercy to me. As I see one bent over under the yoke of shame, I am humbled by the memory of my own deliverance. Tragically, the ones most bowed down with shame don’t often come through church doors. They won’t run toward those they fear will further condemn them.
So, who is near me crippled with shame? Time for me to take a step back and let go of unsuccessful methodology. I ask Jesus to give me His heart for that person. I ask Him how I should build a bridge as artfully as He did. I may not even need words. Like Jesus who sat on the edge of the well in Samaria, He just showed up and began a conversation about life, not religion. Both the Samaritan woman and the woman caught in adultery – ultimately lifted their gaze to behold the love of God.
Someone near me, too scared to look at Jesus, just might get the courage if they can see His love in my eyes first. I must always build the bridge of friendship and honor strong enough to support the truth.
Honor instead of shame, Jesus. You gave it to me. Show me how to reach out to the person You’ve brought to my mind right now. Amen