by Christopher Harbin

This content is part of a series.

Passing on Shame (3 of 52)
Series: Discipleship Part 2
Christopher B. Harbin
Matthew 1:18-24

Shame has often played a large part of our society and especially our religious circles. We have chosen to shame those who do not measure up to our standards or those standards we understand to be God's. We have done such to make sure people have an impetus to repent of their ways. Along the process, however, we find that shame just does not work that way. Instead of helping those who err to change their ways, it tends to send them in the direction of covering up their shame, ignoring what they have done, or breaking off communication with those who would shame them. If the purpose of shaming someone is to change their behavior, we need to switch gears.

Nowhere does shame reside more strongly in our religious culture than in issues of sexuality. Long ago Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote his book, The Scarlet Letter, as a depiction of shaming as a not so successful strategy, as well as falling short of responding to the realities of life and hypocrisy that so often go along with it. When we turn to the Bible, we hear mixed messages on shame, but when it comes to Jesus, we find that he virtually disavows its use. That message begins with Matthew's birth narrative.

Matthew chapter one takes up Jesus' birth story at the conclusion of his review of Jesus' genealogy. We find mentions of several women in the genealogy, which should make us pay special attention, as they would normally be skipped over. We find Tamar, wife to one of Judah's sons who died and left her a widow. She became a widow once again with the death of Judah's second son who took her to wife. When Judah refused to marry her to his third son, she ended up pregnant by him. We find another woman mentioned in the genealogy, Rahab, who was both a harlot and a foreigner. Then we find Ruth, another widow in the Jesus' genealogy, who was also an immigrant. Next, we find Bathsheba, the widow of an immigrant taken ...

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