Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Shame or Conviction

Yesterday, I said that we cannot use the name of Jesus to shame others into doing what we want them to do or believing what we want them to believe or behaving in a way that makes us more comfortable. And undoubtedly, I know that there were Christians who were reading that post and saying, wait a minute. I'm not using Jesus to shame anyone; I'm using Jesus to convict them. 

Isn't that what the faith journey is all about? Being convicted? 

Conviction convinces us to change our hearts and minds. Conviction calls us to change our behavior. Conviction shows us where we are missing the mark on God and beckons us to living better. Conviction is a great thing in the life of a Christian, and we could all use a little conviction every now and then (or, okay, a lot). 

But proper conviction in the Christian tradition requires full truth. It requires a holistic approach. It depends upon the revelation of the whole heart of God and not just the parts that seem convenient at the time. And that's what's missing from so many of the conversations that we're having that we claim are about Jesus. 

Over the past two days, we've looked at a conversation about the same topic from two different perspectives, and what's happened is that we've seen two different Jesuses. We've seen two different images of the Son of God, each presented from the perspective of the person doing the talking. Each agreeing wholly with what the person doing the talking already believes. Neither one of these has actually presented a true image of God. Neither one has even desired to. 

That's why what we're talking about here is shame and not conviction. 

Shame works in these half-truths; it is the only way that it can work. To understand that, we have to look no further than the Garden of Eden, where shame was first introduced. Shame convinced Adam and Eve of all kinds of things, things that they already knew to be true - that they were naked, that God was in the garden with them, that they should not eat from the tree in the center of the garden. Adam and Eve already knew all of these things; they already lived with all of these truths. But shame convinced them they were bad because of it. 

How does that happen? It's because shame slants the perspective just enough that what is true seems a little shady all of a sudden. It seems less than good, like it's some kind of trap they've just been caught in. They've always been naked, and they never noticed until they already felt exposed. Now, they're ashamed because they're naked, but they've been naked their whole lives without ever once thinking it was a bad thing. Nakedness is a half-truth, missing the context of being a glorious part of God's design for them. They lost the glory of the image of God in their nakedness, and it became a shame for them - because it wasn't wholly true any more how they saw it. 

Adam and Eve weren't convicted of their sin; they were terrified of God. That's shame. That's not holy. That's not what God wants for us. 

Yet, that is exactly the aim of the article that we saw on Monday (and the alternate version we looked at yesterday). Written from these angles, the goal is not to convict, but to condemn. It's to make the reader feel guilty in front of God, to believe that God is disappointed in him or her for not wearing a mask (or for wearing a mask). The goal of these articles is shame. And shame...is never holy. 

So we have to stop doing this to each other. And more importantly, we have to stop doing this to Jesus. We have to stop using His name to shame one another. Not just because it is unholy, but because in doing so, we are losing the name of Jesus altogether. And we're losing control of the conversation. 

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