“For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever been really ashamed of something? When I was in seventh grade math class one time I passed gas. Loudly. There was really no denying where the sound came from. It was like something out of a middle school coming of age movie. I could have been Greg Heffley from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. I wanted to crawl inside my backpack and hide. Fortunately, I had befriended one of the kids in the class who everybody else thought was kind of weird. He spoke up loudly and said, “Man, I’ve done that before,” and somehow that held back the wave of ridicule that was building and nothing ever came of it. I’m still not sure how I managed to escape a month’s worth of ribbing over it. Let’s change the question a bit: Have you ever been ashamed of someone? That’s a different animal, but one to which Jesus draws our attention here. Let’s listen in because what He says here matters.
I’ll just flat out ask the question out of the gate here: Are you ashamed of Jesus? My guess is that if you would claim the title “Christian” for yourself, your quick, first answer is almost assuredly, “Of course I’m not!” If so, good for you. I feel the same way. And it’s really easy to think that reassuringly to ourselves and just skip over what Jesus says here as not applying to us. But can we pause for a minute this morning together and wade into some uncomfortable waters?
What would it look like to be ashamed of Jesus? Have you ever really thought about that? It’s not something that comes often to mind for me. But let’s see if we can’t define that a little more thoroughly for ourselves right now. What does it look like to be ashamed of a person? When we’re ashamed of something we have done, we try and hide from it. We act like it wasn’t us. We might even deny we had anything to do with it. Well, the same kind of thing works when we are ashamed of a person. How many teenagers have tried to deny any association with their parents over the years of human history? When we are ashamed of a person, we behave like we don’t actually know them. We hide from them. We connect ourselves to people who we deem to be their opposites. When others make fun of them, we join in with the ridicule. And when we make that list, I suspect you, like me, don’t put yourself in that category. You’re not ashamed of Jesus. Neither am I.
But are we really? Probably not. But can I make an observation that may not be so encouraging to hear? In at least my cultural context, being known as having an association with Jesus has mostly been a mark in our favor. There has been no reason to deny knowing or be ashamed of Jesus. For a long time, no one would have thrown any shade our way for doing so. In other cultures and places around the world, that hasn’t necessarily been the case. Although, instead of shade, in some places you are more likely to have something like a grenade thrown your way for a known association with Jesus. Our culture here, however, is changing.
Being a known follower of Jesus is not a cultural advantage any longer. And while we are still a good ways from being in any kind of physical danger for following Jesus publicly, there are many other kinds of danger such an association could attract and many of those have been entirely more possible realities than they once were. And just to be honest with you, this is all less of a concern for someone in my position than yours. I’m a pastor. While there are perhaps better ways to put it, I’m a professional Jesus follower. I get paid for living out my confession publicly. What’s more, I do what I do in the context of a culture that hasn’t caught up to many of the national trends of views of Christians. Being a known follower of Jesus doesn’t cost me anything.
How about you?
The odds are a bit better that you are living and working in a context where being a known follower of Jesus whose behavior is consistent with your confession may have a cost to it. Coworkers may not want to be as sociable with you as they will with the person they trust more for not judging them when they behave in ways that don’t line up with their assumptions about your moral positions. If you bring up topics related to your faith or take positions on issues that are consistent with your confessions, you may be ridiculed for it. You could lose friends. You may be reported to Human Resources. You could lose promotion opportunities. You could be fired. You could be sued and threatened with enormous fines.
Are you still unashamed of Jesus?
It’s still easy to say yes sitting somewhere none of that is impacting you presently. But when no one around you is following Jesus and all the cultural pressure is pushing you in the opposite direction, it’s another story. Here’s the challenging truth that’s all the more challenging when the moment of pressure arrives: Following Jesus means going all in no matter what the consequences may be in the moment. Now, that doesn’t mean being ugly or hard or weird (unnecessarily so at least). It means sticking to the character of Christ no matter how the people around you might respond to that. If we’re willing to do that (and “that” here means loving one another) even when it costs us, that’s a sign to Jesus that we really are on His side. That’s a commitment He will honor and return in full. When we are standing one day before the throne of judgment and looking to Him as the way out of the punishment awaiting us for our sins, He’ll stand up and say, “Hey, Dad, this one is one of mine. I’ve got her covered. He belongs to me.” That’ll be a good moment. But it is a moment we start living toward now. Let’s get to work.