We all have had that experience, when we look at that parent, sibling, aunt, or cousin and wish that any shared history, similarity of appearance, or overlapping genetic code, was no more. There are the stories that become funny with time and are retold at holidays, birthdays, and especially rehearsal dinners. Then there are the stories that are truly shameful, which will never be told with a smile or laugh. These are the memories reserved for a trusted friend, a counselor, but often no one.
In the New Testament book of Hebrews which says, “he is not ashamed to call them brothers.” The “he” refers to Jesus and the “brothers,” refers to Christians (both men and women).
I think of all that I have said and done that is shameful. I think of Christians from all eras making terrible mistakes whether it was the anti-Semitism of Martin Luther, the racism present among American Presbyterians in the 1800’s until this day, or the shallowness that characterizes much of American Christianity. And Jesus, still identifies with his church. Jesus is not ashamed of his family and two reasons (from the book of Hebrews) stand out.
First, near the end of the book of Hebrews the author speaks of Jesus enduring the cross and despising its shame. The cross is a place of shame in that the person being executed is suspended between heaven and earth, symbolically rejected by both God and man. In Jesus’ case this symbolism is realized as God turns his back on the one bearing the weight of our sin. All that Christians have done which is shameful is accounted to Jesus and rather than being paralyzed or turned off by this shame he won’t let it stop him. He despises it’s power, knowing he can carry it for us, and so takes our shame away.
Second, right before the author speaks of Jesus, not being ashamed to call us brothers he describes Christians as those “who are sanctified,” meaning “those who God makes holy.” Jesus is in the process of removing what is shameful from the lives of his followers. This isn’t only the shame of embezzlement, adultery, or addiction, but also the shame of pride, self-sufficiency, and superiority. While the status of a Christian rests on Jesus’ bearing our shame on the cross, our experience of this reality is bound up with becoming holy.
The interplay between these reasons for Jesus unashamedly calling us his own, will determine both the apprehension of God’s mercy and the ability to incorporate his shameless acceptance of us into unashamed allegiance to him.