For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. – Mark 8:38
That above statement of Jesus is one of my life verses (yeah, I’ve got life verses). It has both increased my boldness to be public about my convictions and also changed the way I interpret thorny issues. Christ is saying, just after Peter confesses Him as Messiah and calling the disciples to take up their crosses, that it’s not good to be embarrassed of Him. He says ashamed in every translation I use but for some reason embarrassed holds more power for me. Is Jesus saying that those who are embarrassed of Him aren’t going to be saved in the end? Let’s leave discussion of eschatological/soteriological possibilities aside for today. Let’s just say that a take-away is that Christ is saying “I don’t want My followers to be embarrassed of Me …or My words.”
That leaves us with big personal questions: Am I embarrassed of Him? Am I ashamed of some of His teaching (maybe the less politically correct ones)? Am I shy about any the implications of His Lordship (maybe the most counter-cultural ones)? I’ve noticed that there are some Christians – blessed with evangelical upbringing and heritage – who seem to relate to the Faith like a teenager treats their parents at the mall. That is, “I’m glad you gave me life but I’d rather not be seen with you.” I try hard to relate but I became a Christian when I was 23 right out of cynical atheism. To come to the Lord meant surgery on every assumption of my worldview. It hurt. But I’m not immune to the temptation to be embarrassed of Jesus or some aspect of His Lordship.
Once while in seminary, I was sitting around the lunch table with a diverse group of classmates. We had just been in theology class but suddenly it was getting a little more personal. I spoke off the cuff about something that happened in my life and how I thought Satan had played a role. I felt of tinge of embarrassment for a second. Satan as a theological category was one thing but I had just revealed that I thought of him (experienced him) as a personal entity. Now I’m pretty sure Jesus thought of the Enemy that way so why was I embarrassed? It felt so unsophisticated and, well, downright ‘fundie’ to talk that way. I know that there is much theologizing that has no place for a personal Satan. I got to thinking, could a motivation for that kind of rationalization be a fear of being unsophisticated? Maybe a little embarrassment?
…or My words. I know that Jesus is speaking about Himself here and not directly about the rest of Scripture. But I am definitely not a ‘red-letter-Jesus’ own words’ kind of guy. I think the Spirit of Christ had a hand in the whole Bible. He’s not just talking about being okay with some aspect of Jesus or being willing to call yourself a Christian or Christ-follower. *By the way, what’s with ‘Christ-follower’? It’s a great term but do you use it to avoid ‘Christian’. Does ‘Christian’ carry connotations that are embarrassing? * To not be ashamed of Jesus means to hold to His identity and the implications of His Lordship no matter how they are perceived, mocked, approved of, rejected, admired, or deemed intolerable by our culture around us. So that should make us self-critical. Is there anything aspect of Christian truth that we’re embarrassed of? Is there any interpretation that we choose because it avoids seeming unsophisticated, intolerant, backwards, etc… Often, not always, it’s the more conservative interpretation that seems this way. Is your exegesis embarrassed?
It’s tough to nail down motivations of others. That’s not for me to judge. There is one who can pierce hearts and minds who can do a better job. But I do think I can issue the challenge to self-evaluate – to see if embarrassment among our peers, our academic setting, our culture plays any role. I am in need of this self-evaluation myself all the time. Are you embarrassed of Jesus? What about your position on creation/evolution? What about your position on sexuality (this one is current)? What about soteriology (who gets saved and how)? What gender roles in ministry? What about your view of Scripture and inspiration? What about evangelism and how it should be done? What about social justice issues? What about the exclusive claims of Christ? Everyone is free to have their opinions and often people hold their positions with integrity. But why do you believe what you believe? I hope it is not because of being embarrassed.