Shamelessness: The good Kind
July 24, 2016
In Today’s Gospel Jesus spoke of a man who had a midnight emergency. A visitor arrived at the home of the man who had nothing to give him. In the middle east, this is what you did. You would present your visitor with food and drink upon arrival at your house…. especially those who had travelled all day. He didn’t deep freeze with stacks of frozen pizzas to call up. No electric oven or microwave to cook it. Nothing in the house to feed him. There were no all-night markets either.
So he runs to his neighbors house, whose house was all dark inside and door was bolted shut. But he was a friend, and what are friends for? So he starts banging on the door. The guy inside says “what are you doing? Get out of here? Go away, we’re all in bed.” But this Friend keeps on knocking.
Rather quickly, the guy in the house figures out the quickest way to get rid of him would be to open the door and give him what he’s after. And Jesus concludes this parable in this way: “I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is s friend, but because of his ‘impudence’ will rise and give him whatever he needs”
“Impudence.” Other English Bibles which we are better acquainted with translate it as “persistence.” I have heard and have preached a couple of sermons on “Persistence.: in prayer. In fact, this is the most common way to preach this text. Be persistent! Dont’ give up no matter what.
But this version of the Bible, the English Standard version translates the original as “impudence”… which drove me to take a little trip into the original Greek of Luke. And lo and behold according to all the Greek dictionaries that I possess, “Impudence” which means “confidently rude” is an acceptable translation; as is “Persistence” which means “obstinance in the face of strong resistance. Both of these work, The man who knocked on the fellows door late in the night was “obstinate in the face of strong resistence” And he was also “confidently rude.”
However, the primary meaning of the Greek word in question is “shamelessness”. This was s revelation to me and a new way of looking at this text. This guy was unashamed to push forward with his case. He is not ashamed to ask boldly; even rudely. And Look at the Old testament lesson, As Abraham interceded for Sodom… How shameless and free he was to speak to God in what most people would call an impertinent manner.
Now, Jesus of course told this parable to encourage prayer. We are to be shameless in our prayers. Does shame sometimes hinder them? Of course! For one thing, The very idea that we need help is one we don’t like to think about . We like to imagine that we are on top of things, that we provide for ourselves. And indeed we do! God has charged us to take care of our own lives and the lives of our families. But as we do take care of stuff, we like to imagine that we are more important than we actually are. And we are ashamed to ask for help. Ashamed to admit that we can’t do it sometimes.
And so prayer is not something that is always so easily done. We wait. We wait until one of those times when we say, I’ve tried everything else, I guess I’m going to have to start praying….Then when when we finally do pray we lead with something like “God I’ve never asked you for much…. ” and God says, “tell me about it!”
This is why Jesus taught us in the Lord’s prayer that part where it says, Give us this day, our daily bread.” It stands in direct opposition in a commonly held believe that we have, that we are in charge, that we take care of ourselves. In one short sentence it acknowledges that without God we could do nothing. It is he who makes bread possible; he who gives us the strength and the brains to earn it; it is he who created all seed bearing plants that we can grind in to flour to bake. He is the truth behind the world in which we live in and the source of all that’s good.
Jesus taught us to think of God as our Father. What do you think of when you think of a Father. He’s the guy that cares about you; loves you; provides for you. It’s hard to fully cover the sense of security that children have knowing that that they’ve got a tough guy a strong guy caring watching over them. When I was a kid, and my parents would go out on a Saturday night, I remember lying in bed awake and praying that they would make it home safely. Having them home… Having a father (and a mother) helped me feel secure. Now Jesus said this to his disciples, men who were no longer under the care of their fathers. Here he teaches them the wonderful truth that even though they may no longer have a father watching over them…they’ve got the Father in heaven…. and all of that security and peace that comes with that word “Father” applies to him. Think of the relief that can be had in knowing that you are not ultimately not the one in charge. This does not weaken you. On the contrary it strengthens you. Makes it possible to to endure the world..
Another way that shame might inhibit our prayers is in regard to our sins. We’ve done and thought and said some pretty bad things. We are embarrassed by these things. And drawing near to our father in heaven, getting close to him seems to be a scary thing. Over years of ministry I’ve heard people say “God must really hate me” or “I’m a very bad person, God can’t possibly find it in heart to help me.” or “I don’t deserve anything from God.” Those kind of feelings can come especially when you allow sin to take over your life. Shame makes it hard to even want to pray, hard to imagine God can possible love you. And that’s where Satan wants you to be, feeling like you don’t deserve the help of your father in heaven.
But notice in the prayer that Jesus taught. Look what it includes! He taught us all to say “forgive us our sins.” Notice He doesn’t say “forgive the sins of those bad people” The prayer takes for granted that we are all sinners. The rest of scripture confirms that is true. And even though we are sinners we allowed to address God as father. How can that be? We don’t deserve it. No we don’t, but it has what God gave us by the sending of his son to the cross to die. By his wounds, we are healed. He was cursed so that we would not be. The epistle Lesson for today explains what Jesus did for us quite well. “you were dead in your trespasses and sins…. but God made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses by canceling the record of debt that stood against…. This he set aside nailing it to the cross.” God evaluates us not on the basis of the law, but on the basis of what Christ did for us. You and I really are, shameless in the sight of God because of this. Which means we can pray shamelessly. AMEN