This morning I've been reading and thinking about atonement and the mind of faith. There could be more but I think these atonement (at-one-ment) images apply.
When shame attacks the mind it's helpful to remember that Jesus made a grace-filled environment bridging the gap between ourselves and God. I remember the Covenant God made with his people. He took an animal and cut it apart sealing his Covenant in blood. That's a little dark isn't it. Primitive. But there is meaning. God made a Covenant with Abraham in which there were parts that God would keep and parts that we would keep. God would bless his people and help them to flourish in the land. The people of God would image God and live justly in the land remembering to keep all of God's commandments. And if one side did not keep the Covenant, then it would be done to them what had been done to the animal in the Covenant ceremony. God kept his side of the Covenant faithfully. The people of God on the other hand did not. So God came into our world as a human in the person of Jesus and kept our side of the Covenant--He gave himself. He lived justly, was circumcised on the 8th day, obeyed the law fully, healed the sick, fed the hungry, liberated the captives and lifted the oppressed. Jesus lived out the requirements of the Covenant that we as God's people were called to live out in our own lives.
For that he became the victim, the scape-goat, the sacrifice and his blood was shed. God was faithful to his side of the Covenant and then came down and lived our side of the Covenant--including the sacrifice part. In that way Jesus substituted himself--putting himself in our place so that we might be forgiven. He restored his people to a faithful union with God.
This has meaning for people struggling with both guilt and shame. Through this, Jesus forgiveness has been extended to us.
This creates a climate of grace between us and God. In this climate, we can be fully honest and transparent with God as he dealt with the relational break that occurred with the breaking of the Covenant. How many know that when relationships break down it is because trust has been in some way violated by one party or the other. The work of Jesus as he lived out our side of the Covenant agreement, took care of the broken relationship. He showed that God is completely trustworthy (not to forget completely just) and went to all possible lengths to restore us to a right relationship with God. (this is not about an angry God sending his son and desiring appeasement for wrath as in some sort of divine child abuse, but a good God going to great lengths to forgive and restore his people). Trust was restored in Christ and because of his faithfulness to God. Now we are invited to trust in Christ and what Christ has done.
We are still called to image God in the earth, to live justly and love God and others. That happens not in our own strength but in union with God in a grace-filled relationship with God. Brene Brown shared in her Ted Talk that no one is able to change in a climate of judgement and shame.
True change comes with empathy and transparency in a community of people who have also received this grace. That's what Jesus did. He removed judgement (remember for shame to thrive one only needs judgement, silence and secrecy) and created a relation of grace.
Second, remembering that Jesus has overcome in victory is a powerful image for people struggling with the mind attacked by shame and guilt.
Jesus, as the one who imaged God fully, lived justly, loving God and others--keeping all the commands required by the law, uniquely has the power and ability to source all who seek to live as Jesus lived.
Jesus conquered even death through the resurrection. Paul tells us that the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will give life to our human bodies. That means there is a tremendous power available through union with Christ by the indwelling Spirit. Jesus experienced all that human beings experienced by identifying and entering the sin-affected world that we live in. He was despised, shamed, rejected, slandered, abused, robbed and murdered. In the power of the resurrection he rose above it and conquered the evil in this world--both the evil we do and the evil this world has done to others. That makes Jesus powerful as the one who empowers human beings to rise above and overcome--and dare I say step into their call to image God in the Earth.
Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches and if you remain in me you will bear much fruit." Jesus is the source of life--resurrection power--to overcome sin and injustice. As the embodiment of truth... Jesus reveals and exposes not only individual sin but also unjust systems. All the ways we disregard and hate one another are exposed. This has meaning for the mind affected by shame and guilt. The lies we believe about ourselves--about one another--about the worth of others and ourselves can be exposed and healed in a place of grace, empty of judgement.
Grace is kind of like a climate within which we can be completely honest and accepted by God. In that place or climate, judgement has been eliminated making change possible. God has also chosen to hear our pain, be with us in suffering and empower us in healing. And in that graceful relation with God, we are transformed becoming more graceful people.
I also believe that within that empowering relationship with God and within that graceful relationship with God, we find insight and creativity. Without shame and in an environment of grace the barriers to insight and creativity are removed and we are in some sense free to direct our energy into greater creativity and insight. These help us to join God with fresh eyes to see how we might participate with him in bringing hope to our own neighborhoods and communities.