How many of us here have done something embarrassing? How many times have we done the same embarrassing thing? I’m not talking about: “oh my gosh, I can’t believe I burped in front of my boyfriend or girlfriend…” or, oh man, I can’t believe my pants just ripped.” I’m talking about doing something that was truly embarrassing, not just to yourself, but to your faith, and while I don’t believe God can be embarrassed, embarrassing to Christianity.
EMBARRASS implies some influence that impedes thought, speech, or action <embarrassed to admit that she liked the movie>. DISCOMFIT implies a hampering or frustrating accompanied by confusion <hecklers discomfited the speaker>. ABASH presupposes some initial self-confidence that receives a sudden check, producing shyness, shame, or a feeling of inferiority <abashed by her swift and cutting retort>. DISCONCERT implies an upsetting of equanimity or assurance producing uncertainty or hesitancy <disconcerted by finding so many in attendance>. RATTLE implies an agitation that impairs thought and judgment <rattled by all the television cameras>.
I think that most of us actually think of the word embarrass within the definitions of the synonyms more so than the actual definition of embarrass. Anyway, the embarrassment which I am talking about is the feeling of self conscious distress, almost to the point of an inability to function. Anybody ever been in that situation?
I’ve come to the conclusion that it is difficult to embarrass myself, I don’t really have anything to personally be embarrassed about … not usually. There are exceptions, but for the most part I don’ really care enough about my “image” to really be embarrassed by anything that I do.
On the other hand, I have also concluded that I can do things that I am ashamed of, and that can easily become a wedge between myself and God. We the church, and we individually are always being watched, always being judged by our actions. Sometimes we mess up a little…and sometimes we mess up a lot. So how do we handle it? How do we handle it when we mess up SO bad that we feel like we have no business calling ourselves Christian? Calling ourselves followers of God?
I was written up this week at work for a number of things, some deserving, some made up, all of them embarrassing and all of them completely avoidable had I followed the precepts that my faith in Christ dictates.
My boss asked me to do something that I thought was a bit ridiculous, and still do, however, scripture tells us to submit to authority and Christ says to do what we are asked without question. Turn to Matthew 5:38-48: (NIV).
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
And Paul talks about doing things that are unfair in Ephesians 6:5-8 (KJV):
Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
But oh my gosh is it hard. Hard to submit to silliness, hard to do things that are SO unfair. But when we don’t, who do we embarrass? Have I embarrassed myself by being written up for things I should never have done, or have I embarrassed Christ, because I’m a follower of His and should never have done anything so stupid?
I’ll elaborate on what I got in trouble for, because I know that if I was sitting out there and someone said they got in trouble for something silly, I would be very curious.
I actually got written up for a number of things, using school resources for unauthorized use: I play email chess without the chess club sponsor at the high school. Playing video games on school computers, sending personal email through my school account, watching a movie on a school computer. All of which I have an “excuse” for, none of which matter.
I was also written up for disrespect, telling my supervisor that his request was silly. He asked me to inventory an entire school, I asked him for a copy of the current inventory to work from, he wouldn’t provide it, I told him it was silly to start from scratch.
All of these things are wrong by the letter of the law, all of them are wrong because I never should have done them, knowing that I am supposed to be the salt of the earth…a light in the darkness. Knowing that everyone else knows that I claim to be a Christian. Fail.
So now what? What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to look people in the eye and continue in my job knowing that I’ve done something I never should have done?
Oh and by the way, my first reaction was anger…anger at the injustice, anger at the fact that my supervisor calls my work sub-standard, anger at the demeaning “performance improvement plan” I’ve been put on to “improve my work attitude.” It has been a difficult couple of days, knowing that I was to preach today and unable to step away from my anger, to forgive, when all I wanted was revenge. And honestly, I’m still struggling with it a little bit. I’m a lot better then I was on Friday, but I still feel like I was treated unfairly in many ways, but I know I’m wrong in my attitude, I know I’m wrong in my anger, I know I’m wrong in the way I have handled it. Fortunately, God redeems, God heals, God teaches, God molds us into useable objects through trials.
We are blessed that scripture has some great examples of what we are supposed to do when we fail so miserably in our walk with God.
Moses murdered a man, and God used him as His mouthpiece for an entire nation. David committed adultery and murder to cover it up, and God called him a man after His own heart. Peter denied Christ three times, just because he was afraid.
So what do these men have in common that God was able to use them all so powerfully?
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.'” So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.” Then Nathan departed to his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became ill. David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. So the elders of his house arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground. But he would not, nor did he eat food with them. Then on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead. For they said, “Indeed, while the child was alive, we spoke to him, and he would not heed our voice. How can we tell him that the child is dead? He may do some harm!” When David saw that his servants were whispering, David perceived that the child was dead. Therefore David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” And they said, “He is dead.” So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate. Then his servants said to him, “What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” And he said, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the LORD[a] will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”2 Samuel 12:7-22
I’m going to read a couple of scripture passages about Peter’s denial of Christ. Matthew 26:75, Mark 14:72 and Luke 22:60.
Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.Matthew 26:75
Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.Mark 14:72
Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed.Luke 22:60
All cover Peter’s reaction to his failure to acknowledge Christ. In all three accounts Peter wept, in two of them he wept bitterly Moses fled, but God didn’t leave him alone.
Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”Exodus 3:10-12
So who are we? Who are we that we can fail so miserably and think that God can still use us? We are priests, prophets, kings. We are the redeemed of Lord. We are covered in the blood of Jesus and bought with the death of Christ. We are God’s adopted children. What more do we need, what do we need to learn? What do we so desperately need to understand?
The answer: it doesn’t matter how badly we mess up, it doesn’t matter how embarrassed we are, it doesn’t matter how much we think we have failed God. It doesn’t matter what other people think of us. It just doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we love God, that we repent, that we seek His face, that we answer His call, and that we grow in our faith through every trial.