I had several elementary school friends tell me that when they got in trouble, their moms would say, “Why can’t you be more like Angie?” Not exactly the reputation I wanted to have, but I was a bit obsessed with being an outwardly squeaky-clean kid. And that was because I was terrified of disappointing anyone – my parents, my teachers, but especially God. I was raised under a theology that said I might have been saved by grace, but I had to live a holy life, or I would lose that salvation. So I thought I had to work pretty hard to stay on good terms with God.
What my friends didn’t realize (or maybe they did and they just didn’t tell me) was that one of my primary sins was being judgmental of others. I had to be. How could I deal with the weight of my own mistakes/failures/sins if I couldn’t look at other people and think they were worse than me? It was like I was offloading the shame I felt personally onto other people. Saying, “God please don’t get mad at me, at least I’m not as bad as that person.”
Does this sound familiar? Like the parable Jesus told in Luke 18:10-14 about the Pharisee who went to the temple and prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people…” and the tax collector who also went to the temple and prayed, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus said that the tax collector went home right with God, not the Pharisee.
I have been finding freedom from the spirit of the Pharisee these last several decades – through three primary ways:
- Asking God to have mercy on me, a sinner
- Believing that his answer is always YES, YES! through the abundant grace of Jesus
- Committing to seeing myself as righteous in Him, not a struggling sinner
And it’s funny, as I focus on these things, I don’t even notice as my judgements of others start to slip away. I just lose the need to offload my shame onto others, when I believe in God’s complete payment for my sin, and his approval of me through the sacrifice of Christ.
So this week, we will be applying grace to what you wrote on the “shame” card from the ProGrace workshop.
Here is 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV):
God made him who had no sin
To be sin for us,
So that in him we might become
The righteousness of God.
The phrase “might become” is taken from the Greek work ginomai (Strong’s number G1096), which means “cause to be” or “come into being.” So the meaning of the phrase is that this has already happened to us.
Take some time to meditate on this verse and ask the Holy Spirit to highlight truths to you. Write it out, say it out loud, pray it back to God, or just sit and think about it – whatever works to you. And listen for the prompting of the Spirit.
Now think about what you wrote on the “shame” card during the workshop – or what you were afraid to write. Is there anything that Christ didn’t pay for when he was made sin for us? Is there anything we could ever do that could undo the fact that we are the righteousness of God in Christ?
Ask the Spirit how you should view yourself, even in the midst of sin or failure.
And this week, whenever you find yourself feeling shame, remind yourself that Jesus took all of your sin, and replaced it with his righteousness. One thing that works for me is to declare out loud, “Jesus, I believe that you took my sin and gave me your righteousness in its place.”
This is the good news of the Gospel. And this posture is what allows us to extend to others the same grace we constantly receive.