What is shame?

Shame is that all-too-human experience of worthlessness, failure and not belonging. It can come from what we have done or from what others have done to us. Once you notice it, you see it everywhere. For example, do you have a hard time believing that the Lord could love you? You will find shame there.

Where does Scripture address it?

Once you find it in you and around you, then you look to Scripture. What we expect is this: the more prevalent the problem, the more Scripture speaks to it. And shame meets those expectations.

Barren women, leprous men, and those disgraced by others

Keep track of the outcasts and the less important such as Hagar, Leah, anyone who is not the first-born, or is crippled, or has a disease and is deemed “unclean.” Notice the lives of the barren and widows such as Naomi. These were the ones who were considered to be rejected by God and literally worthless because of their poverty. When these people appear in Scripture, they follow a predictable pattern—honor is right around the corner. By the time you get to the end of the Gospels you hope to be a tax collector when you grow up.

There are so many favorite passages and stories that have relief from shame in view. One of the classics is Isaiah 54. It is impossible to miss. It reveals a premiere benefit that comes from the death of Jesus, God’s Suffering Servant.

Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;
break forth into singing and cry aloud,
you who have not been in labor!

That will get the attention of anyone familiar with shame.

And her way out of shame? Was it confession? Repentance? Contrition? Penance? No, she simply had to be linked to the right person.

Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; …
for you will forget the shame of your youth, …
For your Maker is your husband

She had to be linked to Jesus. That was her way out.

And if your shame is from the ways you have been treated by others, that is your way out too. Their rejection or violence defined you and their evil deeds linked you to them. But by faith, that bond has been broken and you are now linked with Jesus. You are defined by him and receive his reputation.

Release from shame cannot be earned. It comes by being connected to someone of infinite worth. It comes from marrying the right person.

Sin links you to the wrong person; faith links you to the right one.

Beautiful words for the shamed are low hanging fruit in this passage. But expect to find similar words gathering momentum in the Old Testament and then bursting forth in the New.