JESUS’ DEATH TURNS IT ALL AROUND!
One of the things I am coming to see more and more clearly about myself is how deeply my sense of who I am has been immersed in a “Shame-based-identity.”
A shame-based identity believes that when I fail, I am a failure. When I make a mistake, I am a mistake. A shame-based identity believes that the way for me to grow stronger in my spiritual life has to do with trying harder to be good and suppressing anything in me that seems to be contrary to what a good Christian should be. A shame-based identity pushes me to hide from myself and from others my faults and failures. This shame-based identity leads me to Pharisaism not to intimacy with God. It keeps me in the company of the older brother in the story of the prodigal son—working dutifully in the Father’s fields but missing out on enjoying the grace of the Father.
In an article on shame, Jan Luckingham Fable describes me well: “Shamed people fear that if others really knew them, they’d be disgusted or hate them. People who have been shamed also dread being caught in a mistake of any kind…. The basic nature of chronic, or excessive, shame is that the shamed person believes, at some level, that she—or he—should not exist, that she is a worthless, defective and empty human being.”
Without Christ dying for me, I would be doomed to remain in this shame-based identity.
But Jesus says something remarkable in Matthew 5:17: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
In a shame-based identity, it is up to me to earn my worth; it is up to me to live up to everything that a good Christian should be. If I don’t, I am a failure as a Christian.
But Jesus claims that it is He who came to fulfill the Law. He did it by turning around the means by which a person is set right with God. In a shame-based identity, the pressure is on me to do everything that is necessary to set myself right with God. But the gospel declares that at the cross Jesus took our sins upon Himself and died for us to take away everything that separates us from God. That’s how He fulfilled the Law.
Apart from Jesus’ death for us, the only way we could hope to be set right with God is by fulfilling the Law ourselves, which we cannot do, so we are left perennially in the failure and despair of a shame-based identity. It is only in taking seriously what Jesus did on the cross that I can step away from a shame-based identity and live in the joy and peace of God’s grace. When I take seriously Christ’s death for me, the pressure to be good slips off my shoulders. When I take seriously Christ’s death for me, I can move from the guilt and despair of a shame-based identity to the gratitude and hope of a grace-based identity.
Thank God that Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets!