What if we approached shame like this? What if we spent less time calling people out (especially on social media) to repentance and spent more time calling people into community with Christ and ourselves? At this point my antinomian (the view that Christians are released by grace from the obligation of observing the moral law) sensitive friends are probably about to blow a gasket, but hear me out. What if Jesus (or John as he’s recording his gospel account for that matter) didn’t have a memory lapse and the point isn’t focusing on our or other’s stumbles? What if the water that Jesus presents here really is all that he says it is… that the offer isn’t some spiritual snake oil that never accomplishes what it claims, but a life giving and honoring relationship with the one that knows everything about me because he made me, and put me in the story that I now find myself a part of? What if the things that shock and surprise me about myself aren’t all that shocking or surprising to God? What if all of those things that make me want to run and hide are actually much less of a big deal to God? What if all of my failures, partial finishes, inconsistencies, and shameful secrets are access points from my story to God’s love?
I am the woman at the well. I haven’t had 5 husbands but I have a string of stumbles and falls that fuel my own shame. There are days I feel like the woman probably looks like St. Peter when compared to me. There are days when I have to remind myself I am a beloved son, and not a criminal on the lamb. Sometimes I have to remind myself that God’s first question in Genesis was: “Where are you?” And not “what have you done?” And the promise that I have to frequently remind myself of, I offer to you: Whatever you have done and whatever has been done to you DOES NOT make you less worthy of love from your creator. God made you, loves you, and wants to be your friend. Period. End of sentence. End of paragraph.
Here is the one catch though. While this kind of love covers all sins, all brokenness, and all suffering, it won’t insulate us from the pain of experiencing these things. I really hate this part. We live in an age of exile and will until Jesus comes back to bring us all home to the garden of our first father and mother. This part of the story is punctuated with the pain and suffering that are consistent with life in exile.
Thankfully, community can be a wonderful coping strategy. So, the good news is that you don’t have to hear the inner voice of shame and experience it alone. Jesus’s offer to the woman is the same offer he is constantly extending to all of us, everyone. Everyone.
The church then is the collection of people who have received this offer and spend their time in community reminding each other of the grace that they have been given is louder and more powerful than the shame ringing in their ears. And when the church acts like the church, it is Jesus’ body. It is his eyes to see people. It is his arms to hold people. It is his hands and feet to serve people. It is his legs to move towards people. It is his back to help carry the load. It is his mouth to speak love into people. When people experience the church in this way they experience Jesus just like our friend did at the well.
Brandon completed his M.A in Counseling from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2009. Since then he has worked in community mental health agencies and private counseling centers. Aside from serving as the Director for ICP he also has a private counseling practice. Brandon lives in Louisville with his wonderful wife and children.