“Removing the Reproach” - Psalm 69:13-21 and John 10:7-11
Intro: This morning I was to share with you on a topic that is probably most unusual for a preacher to share--the reproach of shame. Shame is not a subject that many pastors talk about. It flies under the radar, unseen, unnoticed, but deadly and potent in its power to keep its captives bond, and to kill their joy, happiness, and godly success in their lives! It is far past time to set the captives free! Why? Because God does not want anyone to be the slave of shame!
We are ashamed when we feel dishonored, disgraced, humiliated, or discredited as a person, either by something we have done or something someone else did to us, something which has made us feel unworthy, ashamed, or dirty.
In the beginning, there was no shame. Genesis tells us that Adam and Eve ‘were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.’ Having eaten the forbidden fruit, however, they knew of their nakedness and sought to hide it. Shame thus came into existence, along with death, physical toil, and the pains of childbirth. In the Bible, shame is intrinsically connected with both the body and wrongdoing, or more precisely with self-consciousness of one's body and awareness of wrongdoing. Once they had disobeyed God, Adam and Eve became ashamed of their nakedness and took cover.
Helen B. Lewis, a pioneer in recognizing the importance of shame to psychotherapy, argued that shame really represents an entire group of emotions. This group of emotions includes: humiliation, embarrassment, feelings of low self-esteem, belittlement, and stigmatization. Shame is often a central ingredient in experiences of feeling: alienated, inadequate, helpless, powerless, defenseless, weak, insecure, uncertain, shy, ineffectual, inferior, flawed, exposed, unworthy, hurt, intimidated, defeated, rejected, dumped, rebuffed, stupid, bizarre, odd, peculiar, or different.
There are two kinds of shame--shame that comes to a person because of something that was done to them, or something that they were forced to do, often as a child, and shame that comes to a person because they were not a child, and they themselves did something deliberately that was shameful.
The first kind is called toxic shame: it is a false, pathological shame, shame that has been forced upon a person. A counselor by the name of Bradshaw states that toxic shame is induced, inside children or someone who has the mind of a child although they may be over the age of 18, by all forms of child abuse. Incest and forms of child sexual abuse can cause particularly severe toxic shame. Toxic shame often induces what is known as complex trauma in children who cannot cope with toxic shaming as it occurs and who dissociate from the shame until it is possible to cope with it. In other words, they can’t deal with it, and they push it down inside of themselves, where it acts like a boil or cancer or infection, always there, and always causing distress, pain, misery, and acting out of the unrecognized issues.
The second kind is genuine shame: is associated with genuine dishonor, disgrace, or condemnation. It is the kind of shame that come because the person deliberately did something, not as a child or someone with the mind of a child, but as a responsible adult, who knows better but does something shameful anyway. E.g., a bank teller who steals from the place where they work, a mechanic who lies about the work needed to be done on a vehicle, or a parent who tells their child there’s no more ice cream because they want to eat it themselves!
Does God want us to live in shame? No, He does not! Let’s look at the two kinds of shame, and what God wants to do about each of them.
Undeserved shame is what we feel because someone did something dirty or shameful to us, or who made us to do something dirty or shameful. This may be as a child or to someone who has the mind of a child, or it may be to an adult. Jesus was shamed as He died on the cross. They mocked Him, spit on Him, and ridiculed Him. He had done nothing wrong, but He was treated and considered as someone who was a shameful person. He was treated as a blasphemer, treated as someone who was despised by God Himself, by the people who were putting Him to death on the cross. Psalm 69 is one of the Psalms that speaks of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Psalmist says that He will be despised and ridiculed without relief, treated as worse than a vicious dog who deserves nothing but to be put to death. But He is a person who did nothing wrong!
Let me say something very clearly: If you were molested as a child, or if you have the mind of a child and were molested, You Did Nothing Wrong! No matter what was done to you, no matter what the molester made you do--You Did Nothing Wrong! Children are under the control of adults, and a child can feel or know that something is wrong, but still be forced to do it, or still be forced to participate in the action. Their trust in the molester is used against them. In God’s eyes, that child or childlike person did nothing wrong! They were made to feel shame, but they should feel innocent of any wrong-doing! They can feel that their hands are dirty, or their bodies are dirty, because of what happened. That is a lie that the devil, the thief who comes to steal, destroy, and kill, wants them to believe and feel. God knows the truth about that person. He knows that they are innocence of wrong-doing, that they had no control over the actions in which they had to participate. If you were a child or an adult, and forced in some way, you were under some kind of duress or pressure, and had no way to remove yourself from the situation, in God’s eyes you are completely, I said completely, innocent of wrong-doing.
Molesters almost always force the child into secrecy. They make them feel dirty, and children never want to tell about things that make them feel dirty. The molester counts on this, or he/she may threaten the child. I heard of one situation where the molester killed a puppy in front of the child, and threatened to do the same to the child if the child told the secret. The child was powerless to stop what was happening, and too afraid to tell anyone because they were certain they would be killed. In God’s eyes, that child is innocent, and even though it may be years later, the healing process almost always needs the secret to be told, so the molested person can feel accepted and a full person again.
Jesus bore shame although He did nothing wrong. The child who is forced to feel ashamed is like Jesus in that way.
The second kind of shame is because we really are guilty of a sin. This kind of shame is more like a deep regret for what we did, and sometimes the feeling that we can never be forgiven. That is a lie, too! Jesus is our shepherd, and He wants us to have a close, perfect fellowship with Him. He wants us to be in such a close fellowship that He uses the example of a shepherd with his sheep. The shepherd took perfect care of his sheep, and the sheep had perfect trust in their shepherd. This is a picture of the kind of relationship, and the daily fellowship that Jesus wants to have with all of us! If we did truly sin, and it was not something that was done to us, or something that we were forced to do. then God wants to forgive us, and restore us to full fellowship with Him!
If you have this second kind of shame, God is waiting with open arms to forgive you, and set you free from all shame and guilt. If you will repent of what you did, and ask for His forgiveness, Hebrews 10:17 says, “Their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more.” 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” You will be forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Jesus, and be counted as holy and righteous in God’s eyes!
Whatever kind of shame you have, it doesn’t belong in your life! Jesus wants to set you free from it! Will you let Him? If you have been made to feel shamed by someone else, let Jesus clean it out of your life! See yourself just as He sees you, His beautiful, clean, sin-free child that belongs to Him completely! If you have truly sinned yourself, confess it to Him, repent of it, turning away from it entirely, and ask His forgiveness. He has already paid the price for it on the cross, and He longs to give to you His own perfect righteousness in the eyes of God! Either way, let Jesus be your perfect, loving Shepherd, and you His clean, forgiven, beloved sheep that He carries in His arms!
Have I preached an unusual sermon? Yes, I have. But remember what Jesus said in Nazareth that day he preached in the synagogue, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Let the oppressed go free! Let all who have suffered under the bondage of shame be set free! No more shame! No more feeling dirty or shameful! Jesus sets us free!