Monday, October 30, 2006
Ashamed of the Wrong Things
“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner…” (2 Tim. 1:8)
We are probably guiltier of doing the right thing at the wrong time than we are of doing the right thing in the wrong way. Or, at least, just as guilty. I wrote recently about the mistake of being ashamed of victory. In my reading today in 2 Timothy, I was struck by how way off the mark we can be when it comes to being ashamed of other things, as well. There are other places I could cite besides those in this book, but there was enough here to make me take a good, hard look at myself.
In this second letter to his protégé, Timothy, Paul cautions him not to be ashamed of the testimony of Christ (v.8), stating in verse twelve that he had placed all hope for the safety of his own eternal soul in Jesus Christ. And he was willing to suffer anything for His testimony, even the stigma of being called a jailbird. Jesus Christ is no one to be ashamed of. No one ever accused Him of any wrongdoing and made it stick. I find that some people invoke the name of God lavishly in their conversation; but are, on the other hand, sparing in their mention of the manifestation of God on this earth—the Man, Christ Jesus. God, a word that can be very “generic” in our pluralistic society, can be bandied about with little fear of ostracism; but exalting Jesus Christ, the name to which every knee will bow (Philip.2:10), and the only name whereby one can be saved (Acts 4:10-12), can sometimes get you labeled as being exclusive and narrow minded. But it’s little enough price to pay, as far as I’m concerned. Paul was put in jail for the testimony of Jesus Christ, while the Apostle John was left to die on a lonely island (Rev.1:9); and neither one of them regretted it.
But there is something else in the first two chapters that we should not be ashamed of either; but we often are. Paul’s other wish for the young preacher was that he not be ashamed of him—Paul—because he was a prisoner of Rome. In fact, he goes on to mention that the one attribute of their mutual friend, Onesiphorus, that stood out to him, was that he was never ashamed of the Apostle’s “chain” (v.16). This observation challenges me to ask myself, “Am I ashamed of my brothers or sisters in the Lord who are sometimes shunned (if not imprisoned), not because they are guilty of gross sin, but because they are “different.” For one reason or another, they see nonessentials differently than others of us do. They may be too controversial, or (as Paul was accused of being) too confrontational. They are clapping on the second and fourth beats, rather than the traditional first and third. We do not have to agree with, or even understand, all of God’s children; but we do have to love them. And if Jesus Christ is not ashamed of you and me (Heb.2:11), we have no reason to be ashamed of them.
Did Paul happen to mention anything to Timothy that we should be ashamed of? As a matter of fact, he did. In chapter two and verse fifteen, he said, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” If we are not reading and studying the Bible—working at it—for the approval of God, and not other people, we should hang our heads in shame. We are imperfect people, so we need a perfect Book to show us the way. I can’t count on you, and you can’t count on me, for the answers. And if we will not take the time to do it, it’s a “dirty, rotten shame!”
Shame is too important to waste on the wrong things. It can lead us to repentance toward God, or it can make us cowards. It can spur us on to excellence in our Christian lives, or it can turn us into ineffective Pharisees. Without a doubt, it can be one of the things that determines whether or not we will be “ashamed before him at his coming” (1Jno.2:28).