News from the Front Porch for Jan. 17

A professor at a graduate college of social work is researching shame. She said in a recent interview, "Shame is the gremlin who says, 'Uh-uh. You're not good enough. You never finished that MBA. Your wife left you. I know those things that happened to you growing up. Shame is that thing.'"

She went further to distinguish between guilt and shame. Guilt is focused on behavior, whereas shame is focused on self. Guilt says, "I did something bad." Shame says, "I am bad." She said we have an "epidemic of shame" in our culture today that can be created by ideals of beauty, success, maintaining youth, material possessions, etc.

The Bible has a particularly effective balm for the epidemic of shame. The prophet Zephaniah ministered in the days of Josiah, king of Judah, when Israel was experiencing a renewal in the wake of the devastation after King Manasseh's reign.

First, the Lord told the people through Zephaniah that he had removed the condemnation that hung over Judah's head. God's wrath against the evil had been spent and would not be renewed.

Second, the Lord said that he had rescued the people from their foes.

Third, the Lord said that he is present and singing over his people.

This is a text for us today, those of us who live in the age of "the epidemic of shame," as the professor described it. How? First, Jesus Christ is the true descendant of Judah who took God's judgment upon himself on the cross for us.

Second, Jesus Christ is the Israelite whose enemies have been and are being removed.

Third, Jesus Christ is the Israelite to whom the Lord is present and exults over. He was with God in the beginning (John 1:1).

Therefore, we are able to say, in Christ, that the judgment against us has been removed. We are able to say, in Christ, that our enemies have been removed. We are able to say, in Christ, that God is present to us. We are able to say, in Christ, that God exults over us, that he quiets us by his love and sings over us.

Speaking of the freedom we have in Christ is the balm of joy for those who have trusted Christ as savior and the vaccine for those infected by the epidemic of shame.

"Rejoice, be in high spirits and glory with all your heart ... The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; He has cast out your enemy. The King of Israel, the Lord Himself, is in the midst of you, you will not experience or fear evil any more ... The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior ... He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest in silent satisfaction and in His love, He will be silent and make no mention of past sins, or even recall them; He will exult over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:13-17.

Dianne Brady is an author and speaker and can be reached at gracekeeper@comcast.net.