…that in nothing I shall be ashamed… Philippians 1:20
To be ashamed is to have a feeling of fear or shame which prevents a person from doing a thing. It could either be the external rejection and condemnation levied against us by others, or perhaps it is the accusation of our own conscience. Either way, shame is a silencer.
What must it have felt like for Paul, once a highly respected man of religion, to now be chained as a common criminal and hated and reviled by those (the Pharisees) who had once been his brothers? He was an educated man with an impressive pedigree. Now he is a prisoner. A prisoner for Christ, but still a prisoner.
This is the same Paul who imprisoned believers before his conversion, and now he himself is in prison. How he must have been mocked.
The story of Peter’s rescue from prison by angels was surely not unknown to him and the other believers. As happened to Jesus on the cross, was Paul taunted by those who asked why his God didn’t rescue him?
There must surely have been moments when Paul was confronted by all of these thoughts. But even though Paul is confined by the walls of his prison, he will not allow himself to be confined by a shame that keeps him from speaking boldly for Christ. Very possibly he has always known that he was not worthy to carry the message of the gospel, as he tells the Philippians in verse 29 that their faith (as well as his) has been granted for the sake of Christ. So also, for the sake of Christ, Paul is a messenger of the gospel. No need to be ashamed of not being worthy now. He never was.
His words are – in nothing I shall be ashamed.
Not his past
Not his present
Not his circumstances
Not his God
Shame loses its power when we can fall back into the grace of God and no longer feel compelled to prove that we are worthy of it. We’re not. That’s why it’s grace.
Sweet, sweet grace that silences the screeching of shame and opens our mouths to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that others can also be free of sin and shame.
Amen and amen.