There’s a cultural and religious pride that I’ve noticed – in me, in those around me – and it lies to us. It says subtly – “I can do better than this, if I just try harder”, “At least I’m not as bad as ….”
There’s a language of cultural and religious shame that runs deep – in me, in those around me – and it lies to us, too. It says harshly – “I am never going to make it”, “I’m no good”, “It’s just the way things are, I can’t change”.
And these two narratives, these two lies, play off one another.
Pride tries to make my mess as insignificant as possible, trivial even. It tries to get me to put off change, to make myself look more presentable to others, to find clever ways to hide the reality of how broken I really am inside. Pride tries to get me to blame everyone and everything else, to keep my eyes off myself – keep me believing the illusion that I’m doing okay, I don’t need any help. Sometimes that pride looks religious – it is found in lots of spiritual activity but comes out in judgement, anger and criticism of others. Sometimes that pride looks cultural – it is found in trivialising sin, pretending that we shouldn’t feel guilty about anything – that’s just a religious thing. It masks our need for help by ignoring the pain and brokenness in our lives.
Shame is just as harmful. It is really another form of pride – a way to push help away. It tells us that we are worthless, unlovely, not good enough. It heaps guilt and blame on us until it burrows into our very being. Our pain and mess become our identity. We even give names to it. Whole sections of society link identity to their pain, unaware of the shame that hangs over them. Shame feels comfortable because it validates our pain and brokenness – but it keeps us bound and captive – unable to take a hold of the help we need.
What’s the antidote? What’s the solution?
Two things in one person. Grace and Truth in Jesus Christ. The gospel according to John tells us that “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
We need both.
Without truth we cannot see our need, the depth of our pain, the reality of how enslaved we’ve become to our choices. We don’t recognise the reality of the pain we’ve caused to those around us. Truth scares us. It’s vulnerable to have our mess exposed. However, without embracing truth we won’t be able to fully embrace the incredible grace that is available to us.
Grace cleans and restores. It is a gift! It wipes the mess clean and then provides us with the power and ability to see change happen in our lives.
Truth without grace leads to despair but grace without truth won’t lead to lasting change. Jesus embodied both. An encounter with Him is an encounter with both. When we come face to face with Him, we come into the light - nothing is hidden, everything is exposed. Then in this moment of unbearable vulnerability – we experience it - the unrelenting, life-altering wave of His Grace – a steadfast, unfailing love that breathes new life and hope.
Pride and Shame are nasty bedfellows – but Jesus is the antidote to both. Get some time before Him today and let His truth expose what is broken and His grace heal what is hurting.