Shame On You

So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. (2 Timothy 1:8)

Timothy has a problem. He’s embarrassed to talk about Jesus. He’s embarrassed by the Gospel. He’s even embarrassed by Paul, that crazy Jesus freak who’s in the clink for being a crazy Jesus freak. Apparently, there are people who don’t like crazy Jesus freaks. So Timothy is a little skittish about the whole Jesus freak thing.

Paul knows that Timothy isn’t all that gung-ho about blabbing Jesus all over the place. He knows that his own crazy Jesus freak thing, which has landed him in the clink, embarrasses the boy. Paul explains to Timothy that embarrassment comes with the territory. There’s a reason for this: the Gospel is embarrassing. There’s no way around it. The Gospel is the looniest story ever told by a long shot. A formerly dead guy saves the world? Yeah, right. Anybody wanna buy a bridge?

That’s the big problem with Jesus. He’s an embarrassment, even for Christians—especially for Christians. Christians have a love/hate relationship with the Jew. On one hand, they really appreciate the cross thing. I mean, it’s hard not to like a guy who would go to the mat for you. Christians sort of owe him for that one. On the other hand, Jesus is just plain too weird to be let loose in public. Some people, like Paul, compensate for this by going gonzo with the religious zeal thing. They tuck the embarrassment under their arms like a football, put their heads down, and charge into the fray, bellowing like banshees. (That’s probably why preachers yell so much.) Others compensate by being hip. They want people to think that Jesus is a hipster too. Getting saved is just getting hip—no shame, no awkwardness, no problem. Unfortunately, Paul doesn’t have this option because hipness hasn’t been invented yet.

Personally, I think Jesus is an embarrassment no matter how you package him. That’s why I prefer an ironic tone when it comes to Christianity: I acknowledge my religious chagrin while maintaining a sophisticated air. In fact, by pointing out my embarrassment with a disdainful toss of my head, I can distance myself from the Jesus thing without actually disowning him. (If Peter had figured this out he wouldn’t have worried about crowing cocks.) It’s a fine line so don’t try this yourself. I’m a professional at it.

The other option, as Paul suggests, is to suffer for the Gospel. This, as I think most will agree, is an unpalatable alternative of last resort, appropriate for missionaries, perhaps, or for those who find a perverse comfort in Biblical literalism. And you know what those people are like.

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One Response

  1. I just figured out that these blurbs take me to your blog address! LOL … a little slow. I love reading your crazy self, Fred. 😄

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