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 in his earlier letter to Corinth:
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. And that same 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 our first and greatest sin, then shame has been our collective soul’s greatest destruction. Because we can never live up to any of the standards that our pride creates, this desire to control and maintain our own lives just produces an endless cycle of shame. Think about Adam and Eve for a minute. Their pride produced a shame, a nakedness, that nearly destroyed all of humanity if not for the shame conquering power of the gospel. If not for the robes of God’s love and grace.
In her book Daring Greatly, 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.” She’s not wrong. Brown teaches that our shame is rooted in our fear of rejection. But vulnerability and empathy destroy shame.
Brene Brown is close to the truth of the gospel, but she leaves us one step short. What is my ultimate source of power that will allow my heart to embrace the vulnerability and empathy that are needed to overcome shame? For her it is “daring greatly.” That is finding the inner strength and courage to be honest and real, to risk connection. These are all good things. But they also all come from within ourselves. In the end Brown is calling for a self-healing. But Jesus offers us an imputed righteousness. Not a voice from outside of us, but a voice that speaks over us from our Creator. An alien power that invades us from the outside in and then changes us from the inside out.
You see, the gospel’s answer is unique. The gospel is the power 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 all this shame? 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 the gospel. Why? because in it we will never be found lacking, never flawed, never unworthy, never less than, never not enough. That IS the good news. That this righteousness of God has been imputed to us from Christ himself. Ours now by 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 eventually fail. We will fail at failing. The power that comes from vulnerability and openness will always come and go because it is self-generated.
But “to live is Christ” means that you have been given the righteousness of Christ. His holiness. 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.
Do you see your life as full of shame? Have you been ashamed of the gospel?
You in Christ
How can knowing that you have the righteousness of God by faith cause you to embrace the gospel as power in weakness?
Christ in you
Is there any part of your life where shame is keeping you from living for Christ? How can the gospel remove that shame in your heart?
Playlist: The gospel.