Romans 1:16-17. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
For those of us that are united to Christ, the gospel is everything. It is central. The gospel is the very power of God – something that Paul had already fleshed out with the church in Corinth earlier:
1 Corinthians 1:18. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
And, paradoxically, it is power found in weakness. This is why there is such a danger of being ashamed of it.
The gospel is not glorious in the earthly sense. It is not honoring as people judge honor. It is not elevating, it is lowering. It is not self-help, it is self-denial. The gospel, by its very nature, will bring shame from the world’s point of view. The gospel is literally the story of Christ’s shame upon the cross. The cross reveals our shame, our need, our filth and unworthiness. It exposes us to the very core.
Shame is our great enemy. It is the original result of the original sin. If pride was the first sin, that pride has been producing shame ever since. We can’t live up to any standards – God’s, parent’s, teacher’s, boss’s, girlfriend’s, boyfriend’s, spouse’s, our own. Our desire to control and maintain our own lives just produces an endless cycle of this shame. Think about Adam and Eve for a minute. Their pride produced a nakedness and a shame that nearly destroyed them and all of humanity if not for the shame conquering power of the gospel. If not for the robes of God’s love and grace.
Shame expert Brene Brown defines shame this way: “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging” (Daring Greatly).
Take a minute and watch Brown’s TED talk. The truths she speaks are so close to the truths of the gospel: grace, strength in weakness, redemption and reconciliation. Shame is rooted in a fear of rejection. Vulnerability and empathy destroy shame.
But Brown leaves us one step short. What is my ultimate source of power that will allow my heart to embrace the vulnerability needed to overcome shame? For her it is “daring greatly,” or finding the inner strength and courage to be honest and real, and finding connection. All good things. But also all from within. It is a self-healing that she calls for. It is not an imputed righteousness. It is not a voice from outside of us. It is not an alien power that invades. It is all from me and for me.
The gospel’s answer is different and unique. The gospel is the good news for the self from outside of the self. The self that has been battling shame forever. The self that always feels less than, or unworthy. The self that fears being exposed as a fraud. The self that fears rejection. What is the real cure for this? For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith.
In our lives the one thing that we don’t ever have to be ashamed of is our union with Christ (the gospel). Why? because in it we will never be found lacking, never flawed, never unworthy. That IS the good news. That this righteousness of God has been imputed to us. An alien righteousness, from Christ himself, given to us by our simple faith.
No matter how much we try to be vulnerable, and real, and authentic, and no matter how much we “listen to our shame” or “dare greatly,” we will still even fail at this. We will fail at failing. The power that comes from vulnerability and openness will always come and go because it is self-generated. The power to kill shame must be received. Not figured out on our own. It must be declared over us.
“To live is Christ” means that you have been given the righteousness of Christ. His holiness. His sainthood. His standing. His acceptance. His perfection. His belonging. His worthiness. Now our weakness is no longer shaming. It has been absorbed into the death of Christ and resurrected as a new power – the power to love. To empathize, and care, and be real, and be vulnerable, and dare greatly.
We are not ashamed of the gospel because the gospel has removed our shame.
Do you see your life as full of shame? Does your weakness bring you shame? Have you been ashamed of the gospel? How can knowing that you have the righteousness of God by faith cause you to embrace the gospel as power in weakness? What about declaring that gospel?
And now this awesomeness…