Social shaming has always existed, long before seeing it play out in public as rawly as we're seeing it now. We are creatures made for connection, and shaming is a way to gain social capital. By highlighting the negative positioning of others, we secure a more positive sense of our own. Nothing creates a comforting hierarchy of personal pride more than shame, for its very DNA is comprised of that which leaves "us" outranking "them."
A spirit of superiority does wonders for supporting all that is sagging within us— it's just not sustainable enough to satisfy. That's because the insecurity of the human soul is too venomous to be silenced without a Savior, even if temporarily tamed or momentarily masked. Regardless of our most heroic efforts at self-suppression, it always ends up revealing its needy hand.
In this confusing time of grave uncertainty, it's not surprising that social shaming is running as wild as the fire it fuels. From the superficial to the invasive, the world has been turned inside out and upside down. And in the process our choices on masks, distancing, traveling and voting and on every decision in between have been subjected to the scrutiny of the insecure. Scrutiny that undermines those in the "out group" who have differing conclusions and, in this present economy, lands us in solidarity with either the courageous or the caring.
As the hot seduction of this heated social shaming continues to burn, there's much joy to be found in the gospel that graces the Church with the power to resist surrender. Christians have cause to withstand the enticement of social shame, for at the very core of our identity we've been given the confidence that our standing has been secured by one greater than ourselves. Though sojourners in a confusing world of turmoil, the most violent quaking can't shake us loose from the hope that's built on solid ground. In taking our shame upon himself, our Savior rescued us from the nagging need to bolster positioning by belittling another's.
Mindful we stand on unshakeable ground, the lure of social shame loses its luster as we watch it trivialize the true wealth of character. Remembering our rescue, we find ourselves too enthralled with the deep riches of our Redeemer to have interest in reducing traits of bravery and courage to superficial behaviors centering on masks and hand soap. We're too taken with his faithfulness to have interest in tying character traits as significant as honesty and authenticity to the shallow choosing of hair dye or skin care. Remembering our merciful rescue from the chains of sin, grace leaves us with neither desperation to deny shame nor desire to deliver shame.
When we remember that we are safe in the loving arms of the Creator, the lure of social shame loses its luster as we watch it not only trivializing character, but also trivializing the very heartbeat of human existence. Considering our eternal hope, the salvation of our soul is too meaningful to us not to renounce the kind of shame that reduces living to one's denial to hunker down and reduces loving to one's determination to stay hunkered down.
Fear has you staying at home instead of living! Foolishness has you leaving home instead of loving!
When we remember the Cross, accusations of reductionism hold no allure. Refusing to trivialize life that's been too mercifully rescued by love, we find ourselves recoiling at renderings of shame that reduce human existence to a silly meme or surly remark.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are particularly wonderful times for the Church to reflect on the glories of the Cross and remember what Christ has done. But our inclination is to forget, so unfortunately it often leads to division in families and among friends where there ought to be unity. Our inclination is to forget, so sadly it often leaves us wrestling with a fear that cripples love instead of resting in the love that so powerfully cripples fear.
If you were more loving you would be willing to gather. If you were more loving you would stay home. You're being ridiculous. You're being reckless. Stop being so scared! Stop being so selfish!
When we forget the love of Calvary, we can always count on the voice of shame heralding our memory failure. And we can allow that failure to immobilize us, or we can use it to move us into a hard lean into intentional recall in repentance. A hard lean of intentional reflection on the glories of the Cross that support even the heaviest weights of polarizing perspective. Not a support of condition that requires concession to withstand love, but support that is sustainable and sufficient enough to carry the full weight of even the most uncompromising differences.
As we rehearse the glories of Christ and the Cross, the intentional recall of the shame that has been so mercifully taken from us is powerful in humbling the heart enough not to pridefully heap it on others. Recall, reflection, and rehearsing— these are the gears of grace that enable us to maintain control in a world that is careening toward division and relational destruction.
This year the holidays are coming with a robust call for patience in giving honor to perspectives not our own. We can't control the responses others have to this challenge, but we do have control over our own. And one of the best ways to shift into proper gear is by making the intentional choice to remember.
Our church family sings the following communion hymn by the Gettys whenever we partake of the Lord's Supper. I love its life-giving words of remembrance of a Redeemer who has united us in our deliverance from sin. A deliverance from sin that has set us free from every indulgence that denies shame and from every insecurity that delivers shame.
Lord, please help us to remember. Grant us grace to stay wrapped in the warm bonds of love and peace as these cold winds blow.
BEHOLD THE LAMB
Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away
Slain for us and we remember
The promise made that all who come in faith
Find forgiveness at the cross
So we share in this bread of life
And we drink of his sacrifice
As a sign of our bonds of peace
Around the table of the King
The body of our Savior Jesus Christ, torn for you
Eat and remember
The wounds that healed the death that brings us life
Paid the price to make us one
So we share in this bread of life
And we drink of His sacrifice
As a sign of our bonds of love
Around the table of the King
The blood that cleanses every stain of sin, shed for you
Drink and remember
He drained death's cup that all may enter in
To receive the life of God