Shame, dishonor -- they are words that seem quaint by modern standards. Sure, the military uses terms like that, but society at large seems to have forgotten their meaning and their importance. We no longer live in a culture which values honor as it once did. Can you imagine the Bernie Madoff’s of the world, the Brandon Marshall’s or Manny Ramirez’ of the world, the Governor Mark Sanford’s of the world, or pick almost any movie star or starlet, or countless others that we could think of would act the way that they notoriously have if, as a society, we cared about honor? To put it another way, if we valued honor, they might have thought before they acted.
As Christians, we are taught that honor and shame and other such descriptives are very important to God. Our Gospel lesson this week reminded us of the importance that God places on honor. The Pharisees and scribes tried publicly to humiliate Jesus by arguing that he was a terrible teacher. They tried to shame Him and His disciples for ignoring the purity code. Jesus’ response was to shame them. He identified them as those about whom Isaiah had prophesied. Better still, in public, and by using the example of corban, Jesus demonstrates to the Pharisees and scribes how they wrongly value their legal expertise over the torah of God. In essence, Jesus tells those who consider themselves to be working on behalf of God that their efforts have subverted God’s will.
Those of us who have been raised or have come to think of Jesus as that “big teddy bear in the sky” or that “wimpy” prophet might be a bit disturbed by Jesus’ forceful and public condemnation of His accusers (though I suspect no more so that the fact that our Lord uses bodily functions to discuss purity and defilement). But it gives us some insight into our relationship with God.
God has promised throughout the entirety of Scripture that whoever accepts Him as Lord, He will vindicate. Our stories of salvation history are replete with examples of the faithful being vindicated by God. Noah, Sarah & Abraham, Esther, Job, Hannah, Mary--the list goes on and on. Better still, God promises that He will vindicate everyone who claims Him as Lord, even those who die. Think of that for just a moment. The Creator of the heavens and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen, has chosen to bind His honor to your honor. If you are humiliated, He is dishonored. If you are honored, you bring glory to Him. Such is our relationship with our Father in heaven.
Will bad things happen in life? You bet. Will people take advantage of us as we try to bring honor to His name? Certainly. But the One who raised Jesus from the dead is the One who promises to vindicate each of His adopted sons and daughters. Perhaps, if we thought more in those terms, we might not be so concerned about how the world sees us, and more concerned about honoring Him who first saved us!