Ashamed of Christ
For whosoever shaft be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shaft come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels — Luk_9:26
Why Some Were Ashamed of Christ in His Day…
I can understand how men were ashamed of Christ as He moved about the villages of Galilee. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and men hid their faces from Him. Born in a humble and malodorous village (can any good thing come out of Nazareth?), living in the deepest obscurity for thirty years, then suddenly claiming to be the Messiah, yet contradicting the warmest hopes of Israel—no wonder there was disappointment, and that many were ashamed of Jesus and His words.
How Can Men Be Ashamed of Him Now?
But the thing that is difficult to understand is how any man can be ashamed of Jesus now. For now He is no longer rejected and despised: He is enthroned in heaven at the right hand of God. We can understand a man denying that Christ rose—there are many who honestly believe that He still sleeps; but the man who is ashamed of Christ is not an unbeliever; you cannot be ashamed of that which has no existence. The man who is ashamed credits the resurrection—get him alone and he will not deny it. The man who is ashamed credits that Christ is living and is energetic in human hearts today; and the mystery is how, crediting all that, it should be possible to be ashamed of Christ. That it is possible everyone of us knows, and it is on that strange possibility I wish to speak. First, I shall touch on the revelation of this shame; next on the roots of it; and thirdly on some remedies in our power.
Signs of Being Ashamed of Christ
First, then, I wish to speak about its revelation, about the way in which this shame of Christ betrays itself: and the first feature that rises before me is concealment. Is there any man or woman of whom you are ashamed? Think of them and call up their names while I am speaking. Well, however else your shame may show itself, it will at least have this mark—you are ashamed to be seen with them in public. In private, that is a different matter: you have no objection to meeting them in private. In the pressure of a great crowd, that is a different matter, for any two may be cast together in a crowd. But when you are ashamed of a man you are ashamed of being openly seen with him, you are ashamed of walking in broad daylight through the streets with him; and as that is a feature of all shame between man and man, it is a mark of the man ashamed of Christ. Remember we may be ashamed of Christ although in the quiet hour we pray in secret. Remember we may be ashamed of Him although at the stated times we come to church. For in the one case—in private prayer—there is a solitude, and in other—in public worship—is a crowd; and neither in solitude nor in the throng is the shame or glory of the heart detected. It is as we walk through the streets of daily life; it is as we take up our task in homely scenes; it is as we go about our work and mingle with our friends—it is there that our heart’s loyalty shall be seen. if we honor Christ men will perceive the friendship. If we are ashamed of Him we shall conceal it.
The second feature of all shame is silence. There is a close and mysterious tie between the two. The feeling of shame whenever it is operative has a way of putting a seal upon the lips. A child will babble and prattle all day long, and spin out a history about its small adventures; but let it do anything of which it is ashamed, and not a word will it speak concerning that. How many homes there are in which one son or daughter has come to disgrace, till the parents’ hearts are breaking! Does the stranger entering that home talk of the prodigal? Is not that the one name that is never mentioned? There are ceaseless yearnings and there are secret prayers rising to heaven daily for the wanderer; but mingling with every thought of him is shame, and one great witness of that shame is silence. Now far be it from me even to suggest that all our silence about Christ is such. There is a reserve which is dignified and right when we move among august and holy things. Still, hours will come in every Christian life when confession is imperative and clearly called for, and if in such hours there be not speech but silence, the silence is the stamp and sign of shame.
The third witness of shame lies in avoidance. We avoid instinctively what we are ashamed of. When an architect has designed a building of which he is proud, I can imagine his delight in looking at it. I can imagine him going out of his way by half a dozen streets just to get one more glimpse of his conception. But let the building be a failure, and the man ashamed of it—he is not eager to feast his eyes upon it. Now he does all in his power to avoid it, and he avoids it because he is ashamed. I fancy that most of us know places such as that, for we are all the architects of our own fortunes: places that are disgraced for us by wretched memories, tarnished and desecrated by some sin; and we too, as we journey through the years, are glad to avoid such scenes, and we avoid them because we are ashamed. Avoidance is one sign and seal of shame. Can it be said of you that you are avoiding Christ? If so, however you may explain it to yourself, depend upon it you are ashamed of Him.
The Roots of Our Being Ashamed of Christ
So far then of the revelation of this shame: now a word or two upon the roots of it. Whence does it spring? How is it born? What possible cause can there be for this so tragic feeling? It will be best to keep close to Scripture in our answer.
Sometimes we are ashamed of Christ through fear. We are ashamed as Nicodemus was. He came to Jesus by stealth and in the nighttime, and he came so because he feared the Jews. In his heart of hearts he profoundly admired the Lord—we can do that, and yet be ashamed of Him—but he was a public man, a master in Israel, living in the fierce light that beat upon a rabbi, and he was afraid and he crept to the Lord by night, and the root and basis of his shame was fear. My impression is that fear is at the root of far more things than most of us ever dream of. There are even virtues on which men pride themselves which a little more courage would instantly destroy. The Bible never reiterates in vain, and do you know the command that occurs most often in Scripture? The commonest command in Scripture is Fear not. Now we are not in bodily peril like Nicodemus; no one will slay us for being out and out. The day of the thumbscrew and of the stake and of the Solway tide—that day, we may thank God, is gone forever; but though that day is gone, fear has not departed. For in the intricate mechanism of modern society there is ample room for subtler and finer fear—fear lest one’s business suffer, fear for one’s prospects, fear for the welfare of one’s wife and children; and who does not know how often tongues are tied and lips are silenced and confession stifled, through the haunting of a vague fear like that? I do not wish to speak harshly of that temper: I know how hard it is sometimes to be true. There are inevitable and unavoidable accommodations which the wheels-within-wheels of modern life demand. Still, there is such a thing as being ashamed of Christ—if there were not, the words would not be written—and at the root of it today as in Jerusalem, may be the promptings of unmanly fear.
2. Social Pressure
Again the cause of this shame may be social pressure. We may be ashamed of Christ as Simon Peter was. And the amazing thing is that in such a zealous and loving heart there should have been any room for shame at all. But Peter sat by the fire in the courtyard, and they taunted him with his discipleship; and then the girl who kept the wicket recognized him, and everyone present was antagonistic; and Peter denied his Lord—Peter was ashamed of Him—and the shame had its source in his society. Had it not been for Peter’s company that night, we should never have had the tale of Peter’s fall. Alone, in the dark streets, with what a burning loyalty he would have lifted up his heart to his great leader! But Peter was impressionable, easily influenced, quick to receive the impact of environment, and his society made him ashamed of Christ. Are there none today who are like Simon Peter? Are there none who deny Christ because of social pressure? Are there none who are silent and afraid to speak because of the men and women who surround them? In careless homes, in crowded shops or offices, in football clubs, in social gatherings, is not the old tragedy re-enacted sometimes, and does not their company make men ashamed of Christ?
3. Intellectual Pride
One other reason only would I mention, and that is intellectual pride. There are not a few instances in the book of Acts of shame which sprang from a certain pride of intellect. When a minister whom I know well was on the point of entering the ministry, the late Dr. Moody Stuart, a saint and a scholar, happened to walk up and down his garden with him. And the talk fell on the ministry, and on its joys and sorrows, on the love that inspires it and on the hopes that cheer it; when the Doctor turned sharply on his young friend and said, “Mr. C., are you willing to be a fool for Christ’s sake?” It was an apposite and pertinent question. There must be something of that willingness in every Christian—the Gospel is so simple, so free from subtle intricacy, so entirely, in the heart of it, a gift. And men are ashamed of Christ because His message is so plain that the illiterate peasant can live by it and die by it. There is nothing so alien in the world to pride of intellect as the life and the words and the sacrifice of Jesus. Here is the great offence of Calvary in intellectual and cultured ages—it is that in Calvary there is a fact which the mind alone is powerless to explain. I bring my learning of a thousand books there, and I cannot fathom its mystery and meaning. It only speaks home to my dark and baffled heart when “Nothing in my hand I bring.”
The Remedies for Being Ashamed of Christ
In closing, what are the remedies for this besetting shame? I shall just mention two.
1. Endeavor to Realize Who Jesus Is
The first is, endeavor to realize who Jesus is. If you had lived in London in the times of Queen Elizabeth you might have met two men walking together; and the one by his rich dress and his attendants you would recognize as the Earl of Southampton. But who is the other so plainly and carelessly dressed; and is not my lord ashamed to be seen with him? The other is the profoundest intellect God ever fashioned—the other is William Shakespeare. I do not think we should care much about dress, if we had the chance of a walk and a talk with Shakespeare. He would be a strange creature who would be ashamed to be seen anywhere in such company. And did we but realize who He is, whom we name and whom we seek to follow, the very thought of shame would grow ridiculous. Who are you, tell me that—a merchant or a minister? a teacher or a doctor or a clerk? And who is Christ?-the King immortal and eternal, the Wonderful, the mighty God, the Counselor! When I put it that way does it not seem absurd even to dream of being ashamed of Christ? And no one really likes to be absurd.
2. Endeavor to Realize What Christ Has Done for You
And then endeavor to realize what Christ has done for you. That after all is the great cure of shame. When we once feel deeply all that we owe to Him, the black bat, shame, has flown. I could understand a young fellow about town being ashamed to walk through the streets with an old-fashioned and lame countrywoman. But if the old-fashioned and lame country-woman is his mother—God have mercy on him if he feels shame then! For she cradled him and she watched him night and day, and she nursed him in fever and she prayed for him; and never a day has passed since he left home but her thought has gone out in a great longing to him; and who with a spark of manhood in his heart could ever dare to be ashamed of one who had rendered service so great and rich as that? Yet all the service of the dearest mother is not one tithe of what we owe to Christ. He loved us and He gave Himself for us. He saved us and called us, and has made us heirs of heaven. Just think of it. Try to realize it. Call it up as you walk home from church tonight. Then from the heart you will be able to sing.
I’m not ashamed to own my Lord,
Or to defend His cause.