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Shame can silence us. This might happen when we see a homeless person on the street or a refugee child with no shoes or a widow who needs a helping hand. In our shame and their humiliation, we may be tempted to turn away from them. But as followers of Jesus, as men and women filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, Paul is challenging our propensity towards shame produced by suffering that leads to inaction. His ‘shame’ was jail, so he’s quick to urge Timothy not to be ashamed of him in prison or in telling others about Jesus. What’s his remedy? How can we guard against feeling ashamed when we see or face suffering?
I don’t know about you, but the solution at first gloss seems incredibly counterintuitive. After all, in our world, we might just act, for instance, by starting a GoFundMe drive or an advocacy campaign. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with either of these projects, Paul’s remedy is a bit different! He urges us to tell others about Jesus both in our words and actions so that we remember who Jesus is and what he’s done for us (v 8).
Verses 9-10 lay out the gospel script. It features the kindness of God in saving us and Jesus’ willingness freely to die for us. Along with it, Paul encourages Timothy to model Jesus’ love and faith to others in how we relate to them (v 13). He illustrates this by mentioning Onesiphorus who “often cheered me up and wasn’t ashamed of me when I was put in jail” (v 16). This behaviour is an integral part of the gospel message. A message that not only is a treasure that needs to be guarded through the help of the Holy Spirit, but that is also a powerful, life-changing story.
Father God, forgive me for my propensity to feel shame when I suffer. Give me creativity and boldness today to share your good news with my words and actions to those around me. Help me remember who Jesus is and what he’s done for me so that people’s lives will be changed. I pray this for Jesus’ sake. Amen.