When Not to Be Ashamed
Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God. (2 Timothy 1:8)
Paul says to Timothy that if he feels shame for testifying to the gospel, he feels misplaced shame.
We ought not to feel shame for the gospel. Christ is honored when we speak well of him. And he is dishonored by fearful silence. So it is not a shameful thing to testify, but a shameful thing not to.
The same verse says that if we feel shame that a friend of ours is in prison for Jesus’s sake, then our shame is misplaced. The world may see imprisonment for Christ as a sign of weakness and defeat. But Christians know better.
God is honored by the courage of his servants to go to prison for his name, if they have acted in just and loving ways. We ought not to feel shame that we are associated with something that honors God in this way, no matter how much scorn the world heaps on us.
In a well-known saying of Jesus, we learn that our shame is misplaced when we feel shame because of who Jesus is or what he says. “Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).
For example, if Jesus says, “Love your enemies,” and others laugh and call it unrealistic, we should not feel ashamed. If Jesus says, “Don’t fornicate,” and promiscuous people label this command out-of-date, we should not feel shame to stand with Jesus. That would be misplaced shame because the words of Jesus are true and God-honoring, no matter how foolish the world may try to make them look.
Suffering and being reproached and made fun of as a Christian is not an occasion for shame, because it is an occasion for glorifying God. “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (1 Peter 4:16).
In other words, in the Bible the criterion for what is well-placed shame and what is misplaced shame is not how foolish or how bad you look to men, but whether you in fact bring honor to God.