The Christian will face Shame
In John Bunyan’s classic allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Faithful recalls his confrontation with Shame.
“Say! I didn’t know what to say at first. He cornered me on so much that my blood rushed to my face. Shame even brought this up to me and had almost beat me up with it. But at last I began to consider that that which is highly esteemed among Men, is held in abomination with God. And I thought again, Shame tells me what men are, but it tells me nothing of what God or the Word of God is. And I thought moreover, that at the day of doom, we shall not be doomed to death or life according to the hectoring spirits of the world, but according to the Wisdom and Law of the Highest.
“Therefore I thought that what God says is best, is best, though all the men in the world are against it. Seeing then that God prefers his Religion, seeing God prefers a tender Conscience, seeing that those who make themselves Fools for the Kingdom of Heaven are wisest, and that the poor man who loves Christ is richer than the greatest man in the world that hates him, I say, ‘Shame depart, you are an enemy to my Salvation. Shall I entertain you against my Sovereign Lord? How would I look him in the face at his coming? If I am ashamed of his ways and Servants, how can I expect the blessing?’
“But indeed this Shame was a bold villain, I could scarcely shake his presence. He would be haunting of me and continually whispering me in the ear with something or another of the losses that come with choosing Religion. But at last I told him, it was a vain attempt to go further in this business of discouraging me. The things he disdained were the things I see the most glory in. And so, at last, I got past this persistent one. And when I had shaken him off, then I began to sing:
“’The trials that those men do meet withal,
That are obedient to the Heavenly call,
Are manifold, and suited to the flesh,
And come, and come, and come again afresh;
That now, or some time else, we by them may
Be taken, overcome, and cast away.
Oh, let the Pilgrims, let the Pilgrims then,
Be vigilant, and quit themselves like men.’”
Shame tempts the Christian to think he’s a fool for what he believes. Most people in this world think he’s a fool. The rich and powerful think he’s a fool. The scientists think he’s a fool. But what does God say?
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)
The world has one standard. God has another. And what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mk 8:36). When the end comes, we will not stand in judgment before the world. The world will stand in judgment before God.
I’d rather be a fool facing the world’s shame than wise according to worldly standards (1Co 1:26).