Despising the Shame

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“Therefore since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:1-2).

Today we see the cross as a beautiful symbol of our Christian faith.  We wear it on necklaces, celebrate it in iconic art, and give it a prominent place in our church sanctuaries.  And this is as it should be.  The cross is a beautiful symbol of our rescue by Jesus, friend of sinners.

In Jesus’ day, however, the cross was anything but beautiful.  It was a symbol of death, and a vulgar death at that.  It was the epitome of shame.  A naked man being put to death on a stick of wood.  Oh the pain!  Oh the shame!

How did Jesus respond?  He “despised the shame.”  He rejected the shame.  He refused the shame.  He endured the shame for the “joy set before Him” of accomplishing the salvation of the world.  What Satan, Pontius Pilate, the Roman soldiers, and the Jewish leaders meant for shame, God turned into our good through Jesus’ obedience even to death on a cross.

Now, after the cross and the triumph of the resurrection, Satan still seeks to shame Christ’s children.  He holds a mirror up to our sin and reminds us of our moral failure.  His world system, at nearly every turn, mocks our belief as intellectually foolish and naive.  If Satan can’t have us, he seeks the next best thing, taking us out of service over our shame.

How should we respond?  By going to the accounting ledger, God’s Word, and believing what is written there about our sin; not only nailed to a cross and forgiven, but it’s power destroyed.  By recognizing our mockers not as our enemies, but prisoners of the Enemy, and staying grounded in the truth of God’s Word.  Don’t succumb to the shame.  Don’t believe the Accuser.  Despise the shame and press on to the reward.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).