What causes you to feel shame? Is it disapproval? Next week our children head back to school and many will worry if they look right: do I have the right hairstyle, the right brands of jeans or sneakers? Do the “right” people want to hang out with me? In short, “Do I fit in?” How about disappointment? Have you ever felt shame because someone you boasted in let you down: a “My dad is stronger than yours!” moment, only to have dad show himself to be all too human? Of course our own failures are probably the greatest sources of shame.
I find it interesting that Paul speaks of shame in a very famous passage about the gospel:
“ For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16).”
Are we ashamed of the gospel? Not so long ago in our culture, a Christian would be shamed for believing something others thought untrue. Now we are shamed for believing that anything is objectively true. In other words the shaming is not that we are wrong, but that we arrogantly believe others are wrong; more than shameful thinking we have a shameful attitude.
Paul had every opportunity to feel shame regarding preaching the gospel in Rome. It was the preeminent power in the whole world. Next to the great temples, civic structure, economic force, military might, and Roman worldview, who was he as a relatively insignificant Jewish believer in a new religious sect. Paul’s antidote for shame is evident in the above verse: he looked to the power of the message rather than the power of the messenger. He says “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation.(emphasis added)”
As evangelicals, we believe that in 2019 the need and means of salvation remain unchanged, even if the kinds of opposition we face appears to be different. Paul’s gospel proclamation told the simple facts relating to Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection for human sin (1 Cor 15:4). His complete confidence in God’s plan of salvation, and utter disdain for any human effort/plan of salvation enabled him to proudly preach the gospel. To many the gospel is offensive; sometimes we won’t “fit it”, and sometimes our beliefs will disappoint. We are, therefore, all tempted to modify or even exchange the gospel message in our attempts to bring people to God.
May I encourage you to cherish and trust the gospel? Can I challenge you to allow us to relentlessly preach, teach, exhort with, and model the gospel? Can I challenge you to examine yourself and see the extent to which you believe the gospel is the power of God for salvation?
I know many of you want to continue to grow in your faithfulness to being a gospel witness in our culture just as Paul was to his, but often feel at a loss to connect everyday life and conversation to a gospel witness. Please don’t be discouraged, God will honour faithful persistence! I am also working on some very practical training in making these “gospel connections”, so look for our upcoming Fall Evangelism Seminar.