Once upon a time, I was visiting an out of town church, listening to a pastor who was becoming increasingly popular with those crazy Millennials. He wasn’t a rock star pastor, but more like an opening band pastor.
I had been through a brutal year of migraine headaches, experiencing 20 or so a month. I was debilitated and clinically depressed. In addition to the migraines, my low back was sending nerve pain down both legs and into the soles of my feet. I was on a minimal dose of Percocet, just trying to manage the pain caused by the disc herniations at three levels in my Lumbar spine. I was giving my absolute best shot at being a good evangelical Christian, and saying all the right things to anyone who asked me how I was doing…
“This didn’t catch God by surprise.”
“God’s in control.”
“God’s got this.”
I was saying those things on the outside, and I meant them. But I was also sending God more than enough daggers on the inside.
In that exact physical, emotional, and spiritual condition, I sat as a guest in this church – the one with the pastor who was killing it with the Millennials. The pastor was asking a great question: What makes the Christian church any different than another secular gathering? He went through several possible answers, but finally gave us his opinion. He put it this way…
“The only thing that separates the gathered church from any other gathered group is the presence of the power of God”.
And by “the power of God”, it became clear that this pastor was talking about physical healing. The proof was in his concluding statement…
“There’s not a single time in the Gospels when a person asked Jesus to be healed, and wasn’t.”
When he said that, my head just dropped in embarrassment. As the nerve pain shot down my legs and the feeling of a drill bit slowly moved its way through my right eye socket, I sighed, and just let the tears start flowing. My daughter Lindsey – who happened to be with me – put her hand on my shoulder. She felt equal parts sympathy and anger.
And in that moment, for some crazy reason, a lying spirit of shame just enveloped me, wrapping his strong arms around me, and whispering, “He’s right. Jesus healed everyone, so why hasn’t Jesus healed you?” A spirit of conviction declares, “You’ve DONE something wrong”, but a spirit of shame declares, “You ARE something wrong.”
Make no doubt about it… this was shame, and it took my breath away. Whatever a sick person is supposed to do to get healed, I was clearly not doing. And to bring Jesus into the reason I wasn’t getting healed….? Well, it was just too much in that painful moment. The shame screamed at me for an hour or so, then began to go away.
I’m telling you this story because I’m asking all of us to quit shaming each other. Evangelical Christians are guilty as hell here, and I’m in the guilty-middle of that group.
We shame women who have had abortions.
We shame people who are on antidepressants.
We shame people who don’t read the bible literally.
We shame people who are enduring some chronic sickness, as if they don’t have enough faith to get healed.
We shame people in the LGBT community.
We shame people on the other side of the partisan aisle.
We shame good people from other religions.
I even know why I shame people. Even though I hate doing it, I shame people who disagree with me because it makes me feel better about me. I place a belief system over a relationship.
AS SICK AS THIS SOUNDS, I’D RATHER SHAME SOMEONE THAN LOOK AT MY OWN AREAS OF FAILURE, BECAUSE IT’S JUST EASIER FOR ME TO LIVE THAT WAY.
That’s why the pastor said what he did about healing and Jesus, and why the Millennials all said, “Amen” as soon as he said it. There will be a sad day when that pastor isn’t healed of something, and (hopefully) he’ll remember the ignorance of the lie he once preached. He may even apologize.
But after being on the side of the shame-receiver, I can tell you that I could have easily gone back to my hotel and taken a lot more Percocet – maybe too many. As a 48 year-old mature Christian with a seminary degree, it didn’t matter what I knew or believed in that moment. Shame is too powerful sometimes, especially when it’s connected to a Christian dogmatic statement that sounds true because our circumstances are so dire.
Shaming someone is the worst of the worst of the worst thing we can do to another person who was fearfully and wonderfully made by a loving God – the same God who sent His Son to take upon himself the shame of the cross.
How dare we do that? What in the world are we thinking?
Seriously friends – What in the world are we thinking?