Christians should follow the example of Jesus and disregard the world’s shame. What does that mean to disregard (some translations use the word, “despise”) shame? As we continue our honor and shame series, it is important to know that the world shames followers of Jesus. We have to be prepared to deal with this shame as Jesus did and as his apostles taught the church. Are you prepared to disregard the shame of the world?

Disregard the World's Shame

The World’s Shame

In Scripture, “the world” can refer to:

  • the actual earth (John 9:32)
  • the individuals who inhabit the earth (John 3:16)
  • all human societies and their tendency towards wickedness and evil (John 15:18-19)

It is this third meaning we are discussing when we refer to, “the world’s shame.” The world is not any one person or any particular society. The world is the aspect of EVERY society that finds it perfectly normal to “call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).

When evil is called good, evildoers are honored. And when good is called evil, godly people are shamed. In other words, the world tells godly people, “You don’t belong unless you become like us.”

The Coercive Power of Shame

Shame is meant to coerce. It is meant to tell people, “Get in line and start behaving like the rest of us.” As we have said previously, there is a proper use of shame, but “the world” does not use shame in a proper way. The world uses shame to coerce people to conform to their distorted value system.

When I was a kid, my friends would call me a “goody goody” when I threatened to abstain from some dangerous or destructive activity. They were shaming me. Sadly, their shame was often effective. I went along with the crowd rather than being the odd man out.

After a while, many of us become conditioned by the world’s shame. No one has to call us names or even look at us scornfully. We just know that if we act in certain ways, we will be rejected by our peers. It isn’t that we think about it, or are even conscious of it, we just know what is and isn’t “socially acceptable.”

Jesus Disregarded the Shame of the Cross

In the first century, the cross was the ultimate way to shame someone. Not only did a crucified man die an excruciating death, but crucifixion was also a way to hold him up as an object of ridicule, mockery, and scorn. Rome used the cross to send a message that enemies of the state were weak, ineffectual, and pitiful. 

Not only was the crucified person shamed, but so were his companions and followers. Imagine how members of any movement would feel if they were forced to watch their leader be publicly humiliated. Crucifixion was a way to ensure no one ever admired him or told stories of his strength. Not only was a crucified man dead, but so was his legacy.

In spite of the horrific shame of the cross, Jesus “endured the cross, disregarding its shame” (Hebrews 12:2, NLT). Jesus knew he was going to be crucified. He knew he would be mocked, spit upon, stripped naked, nailed to a piece of wood, and die in a seemingly helpless and pitiful state. Even though he knew this was his fate, he was not coerced into compliance. He disregarded the shame and endured the cross.

The Hebrew writer wrote these words to encourage his audience to follow the example of Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-4).

Disregard the World’s Shame

The apostle Peter described the world as, “Living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry” (1 Peter 4:3). He said the world is “surprised when you do not join them” in these behaviors (1 Peter 4:4). Not only are they surprised, they also “malign” you. In other words, they try to ruin your reputation when you are not conformed to their way of life.

That was true in the first century and it has been true ever since. Because the world calls evil good, they are genuinely surprised by our value system. They slander, malign, and shame us when we resist conformity. Over the centuries, Christians have broken from cultural norms by doing things like:

  • opposing infanticide and abortion
  • refusing to participate in war
  • condemning slavery
  • denouncing racial segregation
  • rejecting “progressive” sexual ethics

For all of these unpopular positions, followers of Jesus have been maligned by the world. But following Jesus means we should expect this type of shame. Beyond expecting it, we should “rejoice and be glad” and consider ourselves “blessed” (Matthew 5:11-12) when we must endure it.

We must not allow the world’s shame to coerce us into conformity. But neither should we fight for honor or demand respect. We must disregard the world’s shame and not take it into account. As followers of the crucified King, we must, “Go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:13-14). That is what it looks like to disregard the world’s shame.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams

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