On Good Friday, we looked at the difference that the Cross makes and particularly focused on how The Cross deals with guilt and shame. I want to come back to that question here. In the earlier article, I said that part of the good news about the Cross is that Jesus deals with these two problems by taking my guilt on himself and by covering my shame.
However, there’s still some thinking to do. Yes on one level, saying that if Jesus is not ashamed of me, then I don’t need to worry about what others think is true and offers a deep solution to a deep rooted problem. But we still struggle with how that works out pastorally afterwards. So, talking about Jesus dealing with my guilt is straight forward. I can process that. However, what about when I still feel shame, I still feel dirty, I’m still aware of others shunning me, mocking me, condemning me – what then?
So, honour shame cultures know how to deal with their shame problem. You get rid of the person causing shame –that’s why you have honour killings. Well that solves the problem for the community but not that individual and because guilt may be less of a concern than the shame affect, there may well not be justice. In western culture, we deal with the guilt. The person pays the penalty by going to prison or paying a fine but they never escape the shame. They carry that around with them and I think that’s one of the reasons why people go on trying to make atonement for themselves.
Then I come to John 21 and I think there are some really helpful clues here about howJesus fully deals with the shame problem. If The Difference Resurrection makes (part 1) was about an invitation to come and see then go and tell, part 2 is all about the invitation to “come and eat then go and feed.”
Come and Eat
The disciples go fishing. They’ve fished all night and there’s been no catch (sound familiar?) In the morning, they see someone on the shore and John recognises him. It’s the Lord. Peter jumps into the water and goes to shore.
There at the shore, Jesus has made a fire. He’s cooking breakfast. Here is an invitation to those disciples who denied and deserted him to “come and eat.” The invitation includes Peter. On that Friday, he had failed Jesus, he had cried tears of remorse and shame. But here, he is included, welcomed, part of the family, invited to share the meal. If we are to deal with shame, then it will take the family, the church community to say to people “you are welcome and included, you belong.”
Then there’s that conversation Peter and Jesus have. The three times that Peter is asked “Do you love me.” The moment when Peter is hurt “You know I love you.” This is painful but necessary surgery, the cause of shame is not ignored, cracks aren’t papered over. There’s an honest conversation. This is a conversation without condemnation though. I believe that the church community should be the place for honest conversations, where sin can be confronted and relationships healed.
Now when people fail, what do we do? We might well invite them back into the group but too often that’s where it stops. The person has failed, we won’t take that risk with them again. We tell them to stay out the way, take a back seat, keep out of trouble. Jesus restored Peter as an apostle with responsibility for offering spiritual nourishment to others. Jesus commissions him for service. Jesus looks forward and prophesies, promises Peter that one day he will go to death on a cross. Now that may seem a bit of a gloomy prediction but I think it’s actually part of the healing. Peter had made big declarations about his readiness to die with Jesus but when it came to the crunch he’d bottled it. Now Jesus says to him that he will be faithful to death.
So Peter is restored to fellowship and to work. That’s a big part of the answer to shame. Our desire should be to see people rehabilitated and restored into God’s family. It must be about “come feed” first. We are family and we are called to receive grace before we are commissioned to serve. But restoration will include service to.
Healthy churches should be places that welcome and include people with shameful pasts. Fruitful churches will see those who once were filled with shame serving and glorifying their saviour.
How is our church doing?