We’ve done a disservice to Jesus. We’ve reduced his power to almost nothing. We’ve destroyed the true hope, liberty, and freedom that he so generously promises.
What we’ve done, is limited the power of his atonement.
I had this thought the other day while talking with someone about the work that Jesus accomplishes through his death and resurrection. What we’ve proclaimed is freedom from guilt, and while true, we’ve totally neglected preaching something just as important.
Freedom from shame.
With Jesus, there is hope in all things.
[/pullquote]As we’ve advocated for a sole view of the atonement (penal substitution) we professed God to be an angry judge and Jesus our merciful defense attorney, right as God gets ready to lock us up for life (send us to hell) Jesus agrees to step in and take our punishment for us. Aside from the defiencies I find in this theory, we’ve lost something vitally important: that even though guild may be gone, shame persists.
Talk to someone that made a terrible life decision years, even decades ago, for many of them, it still haunts their thoughts. I was on the job for two weeks once and someone approached me and said, “My ‘friend’ had an abortion once….could God ever forgive them?”
Though guilt (forgiveness for the sin) may be gone, the shame of the event remains.
As we live missionally and disciple those around us, what we must work hard to reclaim is a total view of the Gospel. One where not only the act is forgiven, but the embarrassment can be forgiven as well. Where not only the act, but the remaining pain can be wiped away. We need to present a Christ that is strong enough and capable enough to forgive the totality of the person (because he is).
When Jesus talks with the Samaritan woman (John 4), I see him doing just that. He knows that she needs healing not only from the bad things that she’s done, but from the guilt that is associated with it. She must have carried a heavy burden for her lifestyle, a public outcast doomed to spend her time alone and afraid. Suddenly she has an encounter with Jesus unlike anything she’s ever experienced before and finds healing not only from the guilt, but from the shame and stigma that had befallen her. With Jesus, there is hope in all things.
One thing I try hard to do when discipling new leaders is to let them experience that same freedom. Many of them cognitively know that Jesus forgives them (their guilt has been atoned for) but many of them struggle with the doubt that God somehow still loves, forgives, and accepts them (releasing them from shame). Presenting a holistic model for discipleship (and atonement) mandates that we must not only present forgiveness from guilt, but freedom from shame.