“I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.” Zephaniah 3:19
How do I connect with someone living with crippling shame? I learn from Jesus and remember that He knew just what to do. He removed shame and restored honor.
He reached out to the woman of Samaria by crossing two lines of bigotry; gender bias and racial discrimination. He bestowed her great honor by revealing 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 and the Pharisees were offended.
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 without treating 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 look for confirmations of their unworthiness in the eyes of others. If we come preaching, attempting to fix them with scripture, all with an attitude of being above them, shame is deepened and honor remains 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 usually come through church doors. They won’t run toward those they fear will further condemn them.
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.
Lord, help me build the bridge of friendship and honor strong enough to support Your truth. Amen