Have you ever noticed how much harder it is to share your faith in Jesus with people you know – like people at work, your friends, and your family? So much so that maybe you don’t do it much anymore. Is it the embarrassment that creeps into your heart? You know what I mean, don’t you? Haven’t you had a conversation with someone that falls into one of these categories and after disclosing your faith in Jesus, you feel embarrassed, like you wish you hadn’t said anything? You wonder what the other person must be thinking and if they will still respect you. Somehow this feeling doesn’t arise with strangers typically, but only with people you know. This happened to me at a lunch with work friends. After accidentally mentioning my faith in Jesus, I was overwhelmed with embarrassment. But I wanted to push the feeling down and away because it scared me to know that there is something about Jesus that embarrasses me. The feeling calls too many things into question, doesn’t it?
Frederick Buechner, in a sermon called The Sign by the Highway, tells the story of a man, who, while driving on the highway, sees a large white sign that says: “Jesus Saves.” His immediate reaction is to wince with embarrassment. Buechner explains that one reason this embarrassment comes is that the words “remind us of old-time religion and the sawdust trail and pulpit-pounding, corn-belt parsons, of evangelism in the sense of emotionalism and fundamentalism.” But there is something deeper. Buechner goes on to say that “Jesus Saves” embarrasses us because it implies that we need to be saved. These two simple words carry our vulnerability, inadequacy, desperation, and deepest longing. What could be more embarrassing to our me-centered, strong-willed, and fiercely independent selves?
Sharing my faith in Jesus with people I know and have a relationship with gives rise to similar feelings. Part of it is my fear of being rejected because of association with pre-conceived, negative notions about who Christians are. But the deeper part is that although I present myself as put together, in control, independent, and capable, what I really am, and what my reliance on Jesus exposes, is the opposite. I am in desperate need of someone to save me. When I show this to someone else, my ego takes a serious hit, but often, in the process, the other person is no longer distracted by me and sees Jesus.
Embarrassment, as uncomfortable and wrong as it feels, in this context, is an incredible gift. If we notice and embrace it instead of turning from it in fear, it actually pulls us into deeper reliance on Jesus because it reminds us of our need for him and the fact that he has saved us. Otherwise, we can tend to think we’ve got it covered or that we can and need to save ourselves.
Have you felt this embarrassment in Jesus before?
Can you see it as a gift from God to remind you of your need and ability to rely on him?
Scripture to consider: