Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

Reducing Jesus

Posted on 22 Oct 2013 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

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.

An American judge talking to a lawyer.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.


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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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  • glenedward

    Hey Justin, who is “we”?

    • I suppose the we potentially works at many levels, and certainly not everyone is guilty of this so I don’t necessarily want to jump to a universal ‘we’ understanding. But on the practical level, by in large Christianity has done this, and maybe more specifically those like myself who have spent time pastoring (but again, not everyone). “We” can essentially be anyone that advocates only for guilt alleviation and not shame in understanding how atonement works. The larger point, is that the cross does both, and that is truly freeing.

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