Shame doesn’t seem to have much influence these days. Reality TV, YouTube, even the nightly news prove that people are willing to do almost anything for 15 minutes of fame. In spite of this fact our culture still likes to use shame to try to motivate people to do things their way.
- “You smoke!? That’s a shame. You’re killing yourself and your children.”
- “You like 64 oz. soft drinks!? Unbelievable. You’re the cause of America’s obesity problem.”
- “You own and know how to responsibly discharge a firearm!? Shame on you. You are contributing to that culture of violence that’s killing our kids!”
- “You believe homosexuality has nothing to do with love and everything to do with sex AND you have the nerve to tell me it’s wrong!? Bigot. What you believe is shameful.”
- “You trust the authority of a hokey religion and an ancient book over your own ease, comfort and pleasure!? Ridiculous!”
You’ve seen it and experienced it. Shame is easy to identify. It often sounds like, “Let’s do it for the children.” I think it’s time we noticed. Our culture is trying to shame the faith right out of us.
One of the problems of American Christianity is that we’ve come to believe a lie. In the past American culture was saturated with the influence of Christianity. Being a Christian wasn’t simply a statement of faith. To a large degree it described the core values of who we are as a nation. Because of this American Christians have suffered very little, if any, persecution within our own country. American Christians often seem surprised, even indignant, when they are inconvenienced or have to suffer for their faith. That’s the lie. Because we have lived in a blessed and prosperous nation and because that nation, historically, was built on the principles of our faith we believe the lie of entitlement. We believe we are entitled to our faith. We believe we are entitled to the blessings of this nation. We believe we are entitled to live our faith without fear of persecution, shame or inconvenience. That’s the lie.
Today, the influence of Christianity is waning. We live in an increasingly post-Christian culture. I don’t really like the term, post-Christian. It implies that the people who stand opposed to Christianity somehow had it or understood it in the first place. They think they do, but they don’t. Instead, we see an increasing number of people who boldly stand against Christian values and principles. Shame is one of the tactics they use to get Christians to stay silent. People of faith are left with conflicted. What happened to the safety of my American culture and what have I done wrong to deserve such shame?
We see Peter’s encouragement. 1 Peter 4:12, “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.” He follows up with, 1 Peter 4:14-16, “So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!”
Our current generation will use shame to silence Christians. Persecution is what comes next. Most American Christians have experienced very little of the former and none of the latter. But it’s coming. 1 Peter 4 warns us not to be surprised. Instead, be ready. Consider it an honor. It’s counter-intuitive, but receive the shame and praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!
The shame and persecution of Jesus led to our salvation. The shame and persecution of Stephen led to the conversion of Paul. The seeds of our faith were planted in soil rich with the blood of martyrs. The foundation of our nation is built on the remains of our honored dead, those willing to give their lives for what they believe.
What are the limits of your faith? Will you consider it a shame to be called a Christian or will you praise God for the privilege of being called by his name?
Thank you for being willing to suffer the shame of persecution for me. Thank you for the valiant men and women who have given their lives for the message of the gospel. I pray for myself and my family. No one wants to suffer for their faith. I don’t want to experience persecution. Give me the wisdom and insight to see shame and persecution coming. When it comes I want to be ready to stand. Give me the strength and courage to speak wisely, act honorably and, if necessary, to give my livelihood, reputation – even my life – for the faith you’ve given me. Like I am blessed because of the faith of those who have been martyred for the gospel may future generations be blessed because of my faith whether I have to suffer the shame of persecution or not.
I love you, in Jesus name –