“Let me not be humiliated” (Psalm 25:2) – That’s the prayer of many today; especially those who have history with Jesus but don’t know what to do with it. (Let’s call them the de-churched for now). These are the people who are afraid to walk into church – not because the ceiling will fall on them, but because some of the people there think shame is a pathway to Jesus. Maybe it is, but I’m not convinced it’s the best one.
It is not odd to see a banner in North American churches that says, “COME AS YOU ARE”. Some congregations do not mean it though. Some of the now de-churched have paid the high price of figuring this out the hard way. We [the Church] didn’t really want you to come as you are, we wanted you to fill our pews, increase our monthly budget and give us a nice story to tell the church across the street.
This isn’t all churches, but it happens more than we want to admit. We can’t ignore it. The fine print of “COME AS YOU ARE” is “but don’t stay that way”. Fair enough. But the platitudes often forget to mention that restoration and healing is a difficult and decades-long process. Too few Christians have the stomach for it.
It’s not just the de-churched who prays ‘let me not be put to shame”. We’ve all got our stuff right? Most Christians have enough doubt in them to withhold the tithe and offering when finances are tight. Veteran Christ-followers are still skeptical enough to ignore the scriptures that ask too much of them. We are all afraid of being humiliated. The difference is, those of us who hold the “COME AS YOU ARE” banner have learned how to hide our shame. We give online now so you don’t really know if our cheerful giving is also sacrificial. We’ve learned how to interpret the scriptures in such a way that our comfort is now a theological imperative affirmed by tweets from other comfortable Christians. For those of us who missed Cover Your Shame 101, we continue to pray: “don’t let me be humiliated”.
The good news is that God hears the prayer of the shamed and insecure. When the Greatest Human returns in power and glory, the humiliated will find mercy, the shamed will find restoration and the insecure will find a home. We’re all waiting for that.
In the mean time, I think Jesus desires spaces on earth where we can experience tiny glimpses of that kind of safety — spaces where we experience the warm hand of a loving Creator that affirms “you have nothing to be ashamed of here.” That place starts with people who know we are all walking around with our own shameful stories. That warmth is felt in groups of Jesus-people who refuse to humiliate those still on the journey to who they are meant to be. Truth is, if no one is confessing humiliating stories to you, it’s not a good sign.
PS This post is humiliating to write. I am the Christian who holds the “COME AS YOU ARE” banner and I am still learning how to really mean it. It’s a long, arduous journey to being more like Jesus. I have a long way to go. So if you read this post and felt like there was a finger being pointed somewhere, just know I am pointing at myself. You see — we’ve all got our humiliating stories. Let’s have coffee and I’ll tell you a few more.
The prayer of those who have history with Jesus is, “do not let me be humiliated”. Jesus hears the prayer, and I hope we [the Church] do as well.