Jesus’ Solution to Shame
About the Guest
How does Christ handle our shame? Ed Welch, author of the book, "Shame Interrupted," delves into John 4, the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Ed reveals how Jesus' gentle and irresistible grace breaks through and heals this woman trapped in shame. Ed goes on to show how Jesus invites us all to leave our shame behind by using the story of the woman with the issue of blood and Peter's reunion with Christ after the resurrection to support his premise.
How does Christ handle our shame? Ed Welch delves into John 4 to explain.
Jesus’ Solution to Shame
Bob: Do you know what you have in common with the great patriarchs of Israel—Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, Joseph, or with King David, or with the Apostle Paul, or Peter? You, along with them, have a shameful past. Here’s Dr. Ed Welch.
Ed: Doesn’t that demonstrate to us the divine nature of Scripture? Because if you’re going to write the story of your past, you’re going to sanitize it; and everybody is going to look utterly heroic—
Ed: —but for Scripture to show that these are people, who are just like us—who have all of these shameful episodes—it just draws us in and suggests: “Maybe—maybe, they are my people; and the word that was directed to them is also directed to me.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, December 18th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
How did Jesus respond to people who had a shameful history, and how does He respond to us? We’ll explore that today with Dr. Ed Welch. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition.
You know, I don’t know that I ever really stopped to think that much about the subject of shame until I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Ed Welch about it, not long ago, on a day when he arrived; and you could not be here because of recent surgery that you’d had. The doctors said, “No, don’t go in.” You said, “I’m kind of loopy, anyway;” right?
Dennis: Well, you know, shoulder surgery is interesting to go through because there’s enough pain after you deal with it, but the anesthesia can whack you out! [Laughter] If you’d had me behind a microphone that day—
Bob: We’d be ashamed of what—
Dennis: We might be dealing with our shame—no doubt about it. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, the point that Ed made in the conversation that we had was how Jesus sought out people who were ashamed. He intentionally sought them out.
Bob: I don’t think that I had ever stopped to think about the nature of His ministry—going to find people who had shameful issues in their lives.
Dennis: Yes. I think of the woman who was caught in adultery, and He confronted the Pharisees.
Dennis: He just told her to “go and sin no more.” I’m thinking also about Zacchaeus, who was—
Bob: He’d been dishonest; he’d been a thief.
Dennis: Right. And He went and had lunch with him.
Dennis: And then, He’s going to share with us about the woman at the well who had, what was it, five husbands—six?
Dennis: He met her at her point of need, and talked about her past, and showed her a way out of her past. As a result, she brought the whole town out to meet Him.
Bob: I think our listeners are going to appreciate Dr. Welch’s perspective on the subject of shame.
Before we hear Part Three of the conversation that I had with him, not long ago, we want to remind listeners of how important the month of December is for ministries like FamilyLife Today and encourage them to help FamilyLife Today be able to face 2014 in a healthy spot.
Dennis: That’s right, Bob. This December—right now—is really an urgent time that we really need you to give. I think there are those forces today that would like to silence what we do here on FamilyLife Today. I don’t think our enemy—the enemy of our souls—wants us to be proclaiming what the Scriptures say about marriage and family in this day and at this point in our nation’s history.
We’re in a tough spot. Back, last fall, we had a number of the donors who weren’t able to give. We’re kind of limping our way to the end of the year here and needing to make up some ground in a hurry.
Bob: Here’s one of the reasons why that’s so important—because, as we plan ahead for 2014, we either have to plan to cut back because the funds aren’t there—
Bob: —or we can actually turn up the game and try to make some advances in the year to come. It really all depends on what happens, here, in the next couple of weeks.
Dennis: It does. Fortunately, we have some families who also really believe in this ministry. They said, “We’ll give you a matching fund where you can turn $1 into $4.
Bob: Yes, this is really interesting. They came and they said: “We’d like to match every donation that comes in, during the month of December, three-to-one. So, if a listener gives a gift of $100, it’s a $400 donation. If they give $10, it’s a $40 donation .Whatever the amount, we’ll match it three-to-one, up to a total of, now, $800,000.”
They’ve actually come along and increased the amount that they will match. So we’re trying to take full advantage of that matching gift. If we can, it puts us in a much better position as we look at our priorities for 2014.
Dennis: Yes, and personally, I count it a privilege to be able to link arms with you and make a difference—not only in your marriage and family—but also in the lives of millions of others throughout the United States.
Bob: Well, if you’d like to help with a year-end donation, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”, and you can make an online donation. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make your donation over the phone. You can also mail a check to FamilyLife Today at P O Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223. You can find those phone numbers and addresses online, again, at FamilyLifeToday.com. I’ll repeat them at the end of today’s radio program.
Now, we’re going to talk about the subject of shame with Dr. Ed Welch. He is a counselor with more than 30 years of experience. He works with the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has written a book called Shame Interrupted.
Here is Part Three of a conversation I had with him recently.
Bob: Let’s talk, for just a minute, about the woman at the well in John, Chapter 4. The conversation that Jesus had with her did not start well. If this was a woman who was daily confronted by the shame of her life, here comes Jesus to pull all out into the open and say, “Let’s talk about your shame.” As you think through this whole idea of God’s grace, what do you do with that account of the woman at the well?
Ed: See, what you’re doing is you said: “Let’s look at the life of Jesus through the lens of shame. Let’s assume that Jesus is targeting people, familiar with shame, from start to finish.” All of a sudden, John, Chapter 4, is a very, very different story.
Jesus could have taken the normal route around the Samaritan area because you didn’t want to get sullied by these unclean people. He makes a beeline for that particular person, at that particular time of day. She’s a woman, which is bad news in that particular culture.
Bob: Shameful; right?
Ed: Right; absolutely. She is one of the sinners known by her sin. This should almost be enough. I think it’s the longest conversation that Jesus has in the New Testament. So, if you’re really onto that story, you’re going to say—like everybody else who watched Jesus, early in His ministry: “I think He’s inviting me to go along with Him. I think He understands me. I think He’s speaking to me. I think I’m one of His people.”
He develops this following—the following are all the marginalized ones. They’re the ones who “got it.” He starts with John, Chapter 4.
Bob: Shame says: “If you really knew me, and you knew everything about me,—”
Ed: “You would turn away quick and run!”
Bob: And Jesus says, “I know everything about you, and I invite you into relationship.”
Ed: Bob, you mentioned: “That shame is not an identifiable feature of my—a palpable feature of my life every single moment.”
Ed: Yet, I certainly know my sins well enough to think, “Why would Jesus ever put up with me?” My experience of life has often been, “If I’m in on the kingdom of heaven—and I believe I am—I’m in on a technicality.” [Laughter] You know, I show up at the gate—and Jesus says, “Hey, if it was up to Me, I would have said, ‘No,’ but it was not up to me. It was a Triune decision. You did the right thing—so you’re in—but I want you to know you’re in by the skin of your teeth.” Sometimes, that can be my experience of life.
As I began to see—over, and over, and over—that the God of Scripture is after the person who feels like they’re on the out and says, “I am yours and you are Mine.” There’s so much involved in that. As I began to see that over and over again, one of the things that it left me with was: “Okay, sometimes, I feel like I’m a wretch—I’m an outcast; I don’t belong; I am too unclean.” It just so happens that that’s the qualification for being part of the kingdom of heaven. They’re the people that Jesus goes after.
Bob: In fact, that’s how Jesus starts His most famous sermon—in talking about: “Who are the people whom God has chosen to bless;” right?
Ed: Well, you know, the Sermon on the Mount—let’s do the same thing. Sermon on the Mount: “Blah, blah, blah—blessed are this / blessed are that.” It’s all very nice; but now, let’s go back and say, “All of Scripture—it is all directed to the underdog, to the outcast, to the unclean.” All of a sudden, you see that Jesus—those who mourn, for example—those who mourn—from the perspective of a good Jew—they are under the judgment of God.
Ed: They’re going through hard things because they’re really messed up. You have Job, obviously, to counteract that and all kinds of other things in the Scriptures. But that was the experience—the more suffering you had, the worse the shame you—
Bob: It was a sign of God’s judgment.
Bob: If you were suffering, or if you were poor, or if you were hungry—all of these things are just evidence that God had turned His face away from you.
Ed: So, the poor—the destitute—the one who’s in tears—Jesus is saying, “You are the one.” Let’s take the word “blessed” and punch it up just a little bit in a way, I think, is very appropriate. Jesus is saying: “Let Me tell you who the honored people are in the culture,” because you look around and you see the Pharisees—they’re the ones who are honored. They’re the ones who keep the Law. They’re the ones who have the prestige. “You will never be one of them, but let me tell you who the honored people are.” That’s where you see Jesus’ ministry just capturing so many hearts, early on, because they’d never, ever heard such a thing.
The underdog and the outcast—nobody cared about them.
Bob: Peter understood shame; especially, in the final hours of Jesus’ life; didn’t he?
Ed: There are a couple of stories in the Bible that just have really stuck with me as I’ve thought of the issue of shame. One is the woman in Luke, Chapter 8. She’s the one with the bleeding. She’s the one who—obviously, she had an infirmity—she was known by her infirmity. Somehow, you get this sense that she watched Him, and she heard about Him. She got the message that: “He hears you. He knows you. You’re His people.”
She’s the one who goes and, obviously, she touches Jesus. What happened, if you really know the details there, is Jesus says, “Something has gone from Me.” He washed away her shame and cleansed her. Meanwhile, her contamination was given to Jesus.
It was this exchange, where He gave her everything He had, and she gave Him the uncleanness. This was almost as if Jesus went around absorbing that uncleanness and took it to the cross. She’s a hero.
Ed: And the tax collector is a hero; but this particular woman is, I think, the second person—the second woman—identified as a woman of faith, which is really high praise. I think of that particular person—then, I think of Peter—like you are saying. I think Peter’s sin is above and beyond. I mean, to say, “I don’t even know this guy!” I can’t imagine saying that. “I don’t even know this person’s name.”
Bob: Here’s a guy who, by all rights, should be court-martialed and dishonorably discharged. Jesus says: “I’ve got work for you. You’re still in the battle.” That had to be amazing to Peter—that there was still opportunity for him to serve, and to love, and to know Jesus—given what he had done.
Ed: Sometimes, I’ll look at First and Second Peter and say, “Let me find hints of this atrocious past.” You don’t really find it.
Ed: It is just this Jesus-intoxicated book, but he does have this one passage that I think is a bit of a giveaway. What does he say? It is First Peter 5—a beautiful passage: “We are a chosen people. We are this royal priesthood—a holy nation.”
Bob, it goes back to your earlier question: “What’s the opposite of shame?” Well, Peter gives the perfect opposite: “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation.”
Bob: You have talked with people who have gone from being under the weight of shame to being liberated from that weight and the experience is almost like rebirth; isn’t it?
It’s almost like—well, it’s just that that burden is completely gone!
Ed: Rebirth is an interesting way to put it—rebirth—where you finally feel like the humans that God intended us to be.
Ed: This is the way God intended true life to be. I have seen liberation with people; but I think, more often, what I find is—liberation and, then, drifting back into this experience of shame—another liberation and, then, drifting back into the experience of shame. That’s what I find more often. I think people can feel like they’re missing something in that—but for us to recognize that is called progressive sanctification.
Ed: It’s just this gradual growth—we all go through it. We have these glimpses of—you know, we hear these amazing words from the Lord, and our hearts are built up. Then, we can forget them so quickly.
What do we do? We have hope and continue to pray: “Lord, for Your…”—here’s sort of a bold way—and shameful people are not bold, by any means—but here’s a bold way to begin to pray: “Lord, for Your sake, I want to know honor—for Your sake—because I’m connected,”—it’s not our own honor that we have earned ourselves. It’s honor because we are connected to the Honorable One.
It’s all about who you’re connected to, of course. If you’re connected to somebody who has shamed you, you experience the disgrace that is, ultimately, that person’s. If you’re connected to the Holy One, you experience the honor of their holiness. “Lord, for Your name’s sake—to magnify Your name—would You give me the honor that goes with being Your royal priesthood?”
Ed: That’s a biblical way to pray. We can be confident that as we pray those ways, we are praying, certainly, according to the will of God.
So, our struggle with shame is going to feel different, a month from now, than it does today.
Bob: I think it’s fair to say that shame really does hold us hostage—and that to bring it to light—to go before the Lord and to bring it before others—we are—the ransom’s paid—we’re set free. We may get dragged back into a hostage situation again, but the liberation that comes. Again, I can’t think of anything that is more freeing—more—I can’t even find the word for it—that you could raise your hands and kind of do that Rocky—“Look!” There’s almost nothing like being liberated from your past and from the shame; is there?
Ed: That would be another way to pray: “Lord, would You give me knowledge of Your cleansing from shame and the honor that You give me as Your royal child? Would you give that to me in such a way that I can proclaim it to the assembly?”
You see, I’m just using Psalm-like language.
Ed: I’m so enthusiastic about it that I can’t help but speak of it to other people who need to hear it.
Bob: And that brings me to a final area I want to explore with you—and that is those folks—because we’ve got some listening, who are saying: “You know—I tried. I went to the Lord; and then, I went to somebody I thought I could trust; and it didn’t go well. It came up in front of the church; and instead of them rejoicing in my liberation, I became an outcast. No one wanted anything to do with me. I was driven deeper into my shame.”
Ed: That’s horrible; isn’t it?
Bob: You’ve heard stories like that. What does that person do?
Ed: [Long pause] It happens too often and just leaves me speechless in some ways.
But here’s one way that I think Scripture might approach it. Obviously, we can talk about forgiving those who have done shameful things; but here’s what we’re anticipating: “We have been brought into union with the Holy One, and everything has changed; but do we expect—having become one with Christ—that the way of exaltation is going to go through experiences of shame?”
I think one of the features of Scripture that we miss is—when you’re hooked to the King—you experience the King’s autobiography.
Ed: He doesn’t take you away from shame. He takes you into His autobiography. His autobiography is one—and the disciples, I think, understood this—they recognized that one of the key features of their ministry is they were going to experience shame. The Apostle Paul, in Second Corinthians—it wasn’t simply the shame that he experienced from those outside the church—who certainly rejected him—his own people.
In Second Corinthians, he’s being rejected by the very people he was used to convert. How shameful! You know: “I love you. I hold nothing back in my love for you. Please, I beg of you—don’t resist loving me in return.”
Ed: That is—what a shameful thing to be able to say! My point is that, as we walk with Christ, we anticipate that we will experience that kind of rejection from people outside of the church; and it’s not a surprise to experience it inside the church. There are ways that the rejection and shame of Christ is just going to be dotted through our life.
What do we do? We go to a God who understands shame by His own very experience. And then, perhaps, we go back to some of the Psalms: “Why have You forsaken me?” kinds of Psalms—the Psalms where the inner circle has rejected us.
Ultimately, they’re the Psalms of Jesus. Jesus is saying: “Sing this one, along with Me. Now, it’s your Psalm, as well.” It doesn’t take away the rejection and shame of what they experience, but it does transform it; doesn’t it? It puts our eyes on Jesus rather than putting our eyes on the person who was so cruel.
Bob: Well, again today, we’ve been listening to a conversation with Dr. Ed Welch on the subject of shame. I appreciate what he shared there. God does not remove from us the sting of shame—He transforms it. He takes it and makes it something different in our lives than the sting that it has been.
Dennis: I’ll never forget having lunch with a couple where the husband had committed adultery. He was dealing with a massive amount of shame.
Dennis: He’d been an elder in his church. He’d had to confess it before the church, and he was just completely defined around his shame.
I told him—I said, “Someday—someday, you’re going to experience what it means for God’s grace to cover your sin. You’re going to make your marriage a trophy of God’s grace.” I want to tell you—that was about ten years ago. That couple has now led—I don’t know—eight, nine, or ten Art of Marriage® events.
Dennis: They have impacted 50 couples from all over the country. Their marriage is a statement of God’s grace. I’m reminded of the old hymn we used to sing: “Grace, grace, God’s grace; Grace that is greater than all my sin.”
Bob: Yes, that’s the message. And that’s what’s at the heart of Ed Welch’s book that he has written—called Shame Interrupted—which we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.
I think there may be some of our listeners who have been paralyzed by the shame of the past and who need to read a book like this in order to realize the reality of grace—that God’s grace is liberating.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy of Ed Welch’s book. Again, the title is Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection. You can order from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call, toll-free, at 1-800-FL-TODAY; 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
Now, Dennis mentioned earlier—and I hope you haven’t forgotten—about the matching-gift opportunity that we have available to us, here at FamilyLife Today. This is the month of the year when many listeners decide to make an end-of-the-year contribution to support FamilyLife Today. We hope you are considering that.
We’ve had some friends offer a little extra incentive for you to make a year-end contribution. They have agreed to match every donation we receive this month, three-to-one. So, your $50 donation becomes a $200 value to FamilyLife Today. They will match, again, all donations up to a total of $800,000. We have not yet reached that full value of the matching gift.
So, we’re asking listeners to go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”, and make as generous a contribution as you possible can. Again, the website: FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”. Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make a donation over the phone. If you’d prefer to write a check, our mailing address is FamilyLife Today, P O Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223. We hope to hear from you; and we want to say, “Thanks,” in advance, for your financial support. Please pray for us that we are able to take full advantage of this matching-gift opportunity.
Tomorrow, we want to talk to the moms and dads who are raising boys—maybe a few of the grandmas and grandpas, too. Dr. Meg Meeker is going to join us, and we’re going to talk about what parents can do to make sure that boys grow up to be men. We’ll talk about that tomorrow, and I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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