Jesus endured the cross by despising the shame of it. He did not allow the reality that God asked Him to submit Himself to the most shameful methods of death in human history to be His own shame. Rather than shame, he felt joy. Hebrews 12:2 describes Jesus’ contradictory experience on the cross of shame:
"Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
My professor, Dr. Dan Allender said: “There is good shame and there is bad shame.” The shame we feel over our sinfulness before a holy God is good shame. It drives us to beg for His mercy and helps us enter into the reality of His holiness as best we are able in our finite condition.
Shame has good results. In my most recent travels to the Middle East, I felt safer there than other places. My daughter told me that one reason for that is the shame they feel in their culture. It is shameful to steal. A person not only brings shame to oneself, but he brings shame to his family and community when they sin against one another. I feel we could use a little more shame in our American culture.
On our travels we encountered a person who tried to accuse us of something he did (it was a car accident). Our friend came to help us negotiate the conflict. In the end our friend told the other driver: “Shame on you, and shame on your family that you would mistreat a foreigner like this.” That statement was harsh but brought an end to the conflict. It put everything in perspective for the man.
I agreed that the man was wrong for attempting to get out of a situation he himself created. I never considered that it was shameful for him to do that. I didn’t consider that he was bringing shame on himself, his family and his country by his actions. This has enlightened my spirit to the reality of shame. I understand why Jesus despised shame. I need to despise shame even more. When I sin against other people and they sin against me, I need to consider the shame involved. It’s easier to see the shame when others sin against me. I started there. I arrived home to a shameful reality that God asked me to accept in love. Rather than revolt and demand my rights, I see the shame the person has brought on himself and his family. The statement: It is a shame! has new meaning to me. I live with the shame by the damage done to me, but I also see the shame that is hovering over the other person. Like Jesus, I want to despise the shame and feel the joy of my relationship with Him.
God led me to Psalm 70 as I sought His healing and direction for the situation. I followed its patter crying out to God to save me and ask for shame and confusion to cover the ones who sinned against me. Now, I see how it led me to focus on God’s goodness while despising the shame. First accepting and realizing the shame, then despising it through the joy of relationship with God brings peace to the soul living in a world filled with shameful realities.