Photo by Kevin Jesus Horacio
As a youth pastor and as someone who has been in ministry for a while, something has recently come to my attention that bothers me so incredibly that I find myself questioning how we do things as a Church.
I mean, big “C” Church, the entire body of Christ, as individual Christians (and that term “Christian” has UNFORTUNATELY and SADLY become a loaded political term that people use to classify those who voted for Trump and/or are homophobic, racist and misogynistic.
I personally do not identify as any of those things, neither do many of the other Christians I know. BUT that is for an entirely different day and different post!).
Lately I’ve had multiple young women (ages varying from 15-25) and even women my own age, confide in me certain struggles they’ve faced or are in the midst of facing.
Some of these struggles are sexual in nature, whether it be lust, pornography, intimacy with a partner who they aren’t married to, or even flat out emotional or physical adultery.
When these things are brought to my attention, my first response is always sadness. I know the deep, dark, gnawing pain that sexual sins can cause in the life of a person, especially a believer.
I do not respond with judgement, I do not immediately make them feel shame or embarrassment, I do not furrow my brows and give them a disapproving look of “you should know better”.
Here is the thing that is odd to me: they are always shocked that I respond in this manner. I’ve heard things ranging from, “Wow, thank you for being so kind to me regarding this” or “I am so glad you aren’t judging me or thinking less of me right now” or “You’ve been so understanding that I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders”.
These words are so disheartening to me; not because what they are saying is wrong or bad; it’s disheartening that they are so genuinely surprised that someone in a ministry position, a fellow Christian, a fellow woman, a fellow human, would react in such a way that showed them grace and love and understanding.
This leads me to believe that they have had an experience, or experiences, wherein they were not greeted in such a manner.
This leads me to believe that another believer or person in a place of ministry greeted their confessions with disdain, with anger, with judgement, with a heart of stone.
This isn’t just a guess, either. I know this to be true because I have seen it. I have lived it.
I have actually been on their side of the shame and judgement, but heartbreakingly enough, I must admit, I’ve been on the other side of the shame and judgement too.
Before I truly understood the forgiveness and grace of Christ, I too was a judgmental, finger pointing, shaming “Christian” who did not realize that a relationship with God and unconditional love of others was more important than following all the rules perfectly.
I lived my life as a Pharisee, ignoring the plank in my own eye. It wasn’t until a finger was pointed at me saying, “Shame on you!” for the sins I had committed, that I realized how un-Christ-like most of us “Christians” can be when it comes to the failures and shortcomings of others.
I heard a pastor speak once about Shame versus Conviction. I use this phrase often and I will continue to do so throughout my life. I have to not only remind myself of this daily, but others as well. He poignantly and truthfully said,
“The enemy will accuse and shame, but Jesus will convict and change.”
I want women out there to know they are not alone in their struggles. I want young girls to see that being a female is difficult, but we can navigate it if we come together.
I want all those who live in a constant state of guilt and shame to be freed from that bondage and move towards the freedom that is promised them.
If God does not shame us for our forgiven trespasses, then WHO DO WE THINK WE ARE TO SHAME OTHERS AND OURSELVES?
Think about it. Then live it.
Isaiah 50:7 - “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.”
Romans 8:1 - “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”