WS Update: Shame, Snickering and Grace

January 22, 2024

Yesterday we explored the first of four sermons in Romans 8, which begins “Therefore there is now no condemnation.” Condemnation is the complete disapproval of a person, involving the power to punish. The Bible teaches that we are born into this world with a manifestation of divine condemnation: shame. Shame is the feeling that we are not acceptable and is rooted in a deep fear of rejection.  

One of the best illustrations of the way this plays out in everyday life is a story told by Anne Lamott in her book Traveling Mercies. One chapter is titled The Two Aunties, names she gives her thighs and derriere because they are like a “couple of crazy aunts who might embarrass you on the beach.” Anne was feeling good about her body one day as she was on a bus heading to the beach when she caught two teenage girls looking, whispering, and snickering at her. After an initial surge of anger, she settled on compassion and wrote this: “I knew their secret, that they didn’t think they were OK. They were already in the hyper self-consciousness of the American teenage girl, which meant they were doomed.”

What is the antidote? Grace, for grace, is the gift of being accepted before we are acceptable. As Lewis Smedes wrote: “The surest cure of the feeling of being unacceptable is the discovery that we are accepted by the grace of the One whose acceptance matters the most.” Jesus endured the cross, despising its shame and as such became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. Isaiah 61 says, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.”

This is your promise on this Monday morning. God in his grace has accepted you unconditionally, which means you no longer have to snicker (condemn) others but can move towards them in compassion. For as CS Lewis wrote: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death (that takes life).  For what the law was powerless to do (give life) because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. – Romans 8:1-4

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