The Cross Deals With Our… Shame
by Jay Parsons
The Cross Deals With Our Shame
2. The Cross Deals With Our... Shame
nce I turned up to church, at what I thought was the right time, only to find the service half way through. The person on the door was smiling at me, because he knew what I had done but I couldn’t understand it. Then I realised, I had forgotten the clocks had gone forward that day. I tried to think of a way of covering it up and making it seem like I had done it on purpose, but I wasn’t quick enough. It was embarrassing – the person on the door had a good laugh, I felt like an idiot.
I had a similar, but worse, experience a few years ago. I took and missed an important penalty for my football team. I must have taken penalties twenty times before and never missed, so I was confident I would score. But in my run up I got distracted, and I blasted it over the bar. We lost the game and it would have made the difference. It was horrible. To this day, I still can picture it and feel what it felt like. I just wanted the ground to swallow me up because I knew I had let my teammates down – in fact, everyone knew it.
Now, it wasn’t sinful to forget the clocks or miss a penalty, but the feeling of shame was present in both occasions because I messed up and everyone knew it. Shame is an emotion that we feel when we are publically exposed as foolish. It’s mildest and most common form is mere embarrassment, which only has a temporary effect on us. But what I felt on those two occasions would be nothing compared to if the secret sins of my heart were exposed for all to see. There is a real shame that we feel when our sins are exposed, and it can be devastating for a person. When we are found out for our sin that we hoped would stay hidden, shame makes us want to cover up, to hide away, to disappear.
Genesis 2 tells us, that in the beginning, Adam and Eve were both naked and felt no shame. This sounds a bit strange to us, but it means that they were completely at peace with everyone knowing everything about them, even the most intimate things. They didn’t feel ashamed to have everything exposed – both spiritually and literally speaking – there was nothing to be ashamed of!
But then, in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve rightly experienced shame when they sinned against God and got found out. We are told that their first instinct when they realised what they had done, and that God would know what they had done, was to cover up. They hid from God because they were ashamed to stand before him. In Genesis 3v10, Adam answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’ Ever since that point, human beings have been hiding from God, and hiding from each other. We know that if our hearts were laid bare and exposed before God, we would be desperate to cover ourselves (as they did with the famous ‘fig-leaves’). We feel the disgrace of our sin, and so we attempt to cover up the worst of ourselves to each other, fearing the day when it will all come out and we will be seen as we truly are.
Perhaps you know this feeling of shame? Perhaps there is a particular hidden sin that others do not know about, but if it were to come out, you just couldn’t bear it. Perhaps there is something you know you should confess to someone else, but you fear their reaction, that they won’t want to know you anymore. Maybe there is even something so scandalous, that you expect you may lose a job or friends if it were made known. For most of us though, we simply fear the day of judgement, when we know we must stand and give an account before God for all the hidden things. We are tempted to wonder whether we will be cast away from his presence, and we ask, is there any way of removing our disgrace before that day comes?
The answer is yes, because the cross deals with our shame. For Jesus was himself publically shamed, exposed in view of the world, on the cross, for all our hidden and shameful sins. He was mocked and ridiculed in the sight of everyone, there was no place to hide for him. He hung there naked and exposed, humiliated, as his clothes are torn from him. He is thought of a fool by all people. He is made a scandal, the king of heaven brought into public disgrace. Why did he do all this? It was because of his love. Because of his love for us, he was willing to give up his place of honour, to take our place of shame, to take our shame away.
This in itself is astounding to us, but even that it is not all the cross means. Just as God pursued Adam in the Garden and clothed him to cover his shame, so the cross reveals that God has pursued us to clothe us too. As we trust in Christ, he clothes us with the robes of his righteousness, which are sufficient to cover all our shame and grant us a place of honour in his kingdom (Isaiah 61v10, Galatians 3v27, Revelation 7v9). The glory of the cross is that we, who trust in Christ, give up our place of shame to receive as a gift his place of honour. In Christ we become, and are treated as, a beloved child of the King of Kings. We can trust, as Isaiah says in Isaiah 45v17, that we will be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting. The cross deals with our shame.