Fear and shame can certainly keep us trapped. We put up with bad situations because we fear that matters may become worse if we tried to fix it. “Better the devil you know than the one you don’t know” is the thought pattern that keeps so many in addiction and abusive relationships. “What would people think if they knew?” keeps many victims trapped in silence.

Christian texts talk about the scandal of Christianity. For conservative Christians the scandal is that only believers in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are saved. All others are going to hell.

I think this is a misreading of the texts. The skandala is the trip mechanism in a simple trap or snare. It is Jesus who remained non-violent in the face of violence done to him that becomes the skandala for those who would change the world or simply seek peace in their lives. The fear for anyone who chooses a path of non-violence is that violence may be suffered. The shame can come from following someone who was put to death as a vile criminal. Christian texts are warning that we should not let the fear or the shame in following such a person ensnare us.

Jesus was reviled, but that did not make him a vile person. He refused to accept the shame others attempted to place upon him. He was a victim of violence but he did return that violence. He did not let the fear of suffering and death, even a death on the cross, change him. If we are to follow him we cannot let shame and fear trap us, or change us into something other than what we are called by God to be.

When we try to avoid a scandal we are already letting fear and shame trap us. Public scandals only hurt us when we do not face the fears of “What would people think?” or when we act as if we are truly ashamed. Of course, if we have done something truly shameful we need to stop doing it and face the consequences of our actions, not letting the fear of suffering stop us from living as we are called to live.

In my personal experience I was never closer to Christ than when I came out. I had to face my fears and finally, after forty years, reject the shame that I felt for being me. Some felt scandalized. I knew freedom and God’s acceptance at a level I had never known before. What a difference it made when I refused to be tripped up in following the way of Jesus!

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