Shame comes in many different colors. It’s a silent killer with the capability of even justifying its own existence. It creeps into how we see ourselves, our relationships, marriage, parenting, work life, etc. The terrible thing about shame is that it seems so right. It seems reasonable to doubt our abilities, to be cautious, to kick ourselves bloody when falling short. We always seem to fall short. So we try harder to do better, be better, win more, get ahead...But the inevitable will always happen. We will fall short. And, when we fall short, that feeling once again rises up from our gut and seems to cover us. "Why am I not good enough?" "Why can't things just work out for me?" "What am I doing wrong?" "If I could only be like him or her." "I can’t believe I thought I could do this." "I will never let myself get hurt again."
Sound familiar? Sure it does. It's the whisper of shame. It never introduces itself as shame, but it always plays its hand early. We've just never paid enough attention to see it. We don’t know a whole lot about the woman in the story above. We don’t know what her childhood or what her family-life was like. But I can guarantee you this, she was suffering under the reign of shame. We know she was caught in adultery, and the religious elite were ready to do what they do best - reminding people of just how short they always seem to fall.
But then enters Jesus. Jesus challenges these religious elite to go ahead and stone her, but not unless they too are free from sin. Religious people hate introspection. So, one by one, they drop their stones and leave. I love this scene. It's just Jesus and the woman now, and a bunch of stones. No condemners. No one pouring the heaviness of shame. Then, Jesus says something significant. "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." Jesus has a great opportunity to modify her behavior, by telling her to try harder and be better...but he doesn’t. The first thing He wanted to assure her, was that this reign of shame was over. Even though the accusers were gone, certainly her past continued to whisper the lies of shame. But Jesus would not tolerate such nonsense. He would end it. "It's not if you try 'harder' and act 'better,' then I won’t condemn you."
It's grace first. Jesus will never motivate you to change by using shame. "Go and sin no more" is important and necessary. But that is the fruit of experiencing this type of grace. You see, our response to ourselves, and others, when we fail is always," do better and then receive acceptance." With Jesus, it's acceptance first. Because of that, there will be fruit that will be better. Grace will always produce good fruit. Get that shame off you and let this grace take its place.