Monday Reverb – 08November2021

How Not to Play the Shame/Blame Game

Hebrews 9:24-28 NRSV  

For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  25 Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own;  26 for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world.  But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.  27 And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.  

There’s a trend online called “pet shaming.” It’s where people post pictures of their pets with signs confessing what they did. Some of them are funny [show photos from brain-sharper link]. The owners know that posting pictures of their pets and exposing their misdeeds won’t change their pet’s behavior or make them “good,” but they are humorous. Shame and blame don’t create real behavior change in animals, and they aren’t effective for real change in humans.

There have been actual public shaming sentences for some people in the U.S. where they have had to wear signs announcing what they did. This can range from having a fluorescent-colored license plate on their car to warn about a past driving under the influence conviction (DUI) to having to wear a large placard sign for eight hours for domestic abuse. There’s plenty of discussion about whether public shaming is an effective deterrent for crimes.

Psychologists continue to question whether shame and blame actually change behavior. Blame is a defense mechanism we’ve all used at one time or another, and shame is what tells us we are not good enough and will never be good enough. Hopefully, we have learned that “shame and blame are games that everyone loses.”

God isn’t interested in shaming or blaming, though some churches seem to disagree. God created humanity and he understands how we are made. We respond to love and kindness and shut our hearts to shame and blame. Christ’s sacrifice is evidence that we don’t have to make penance or feel ashamed of our human brokenness. Let’s read about it in Hebrews 9.

Read Hebrews 9:24-28 NRSV.

What can we notice about this passage?

First some context: This message is not to Gentiles, but to Hebrews – Jewish Christians who were being persecuted and tempted to leave Christianity and return to Judaism. Hebrews is the only New Testament book that discusses Jesus Christ as our high priest, connecting him with the Old Testament priest Melchizedek. The main purpose of the letter is to show the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus.

For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:24-26 NRSV)

These verses compare and contrast Christ’s sacrifice with the Levitical high priest who entered the Holy of Holies on one day each year. The need for annual sacrifices, presented by the high priest, interposed the religious system, in this case, Judaism, as a mediator between the people and God.

The writer points out the clear superiority of Christ who “did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands” but appears in heaven and who did not have to “offer himself again and again” as the high priest had to offer sacrifices every year. This highlights Jesus as fully divine as well as fully human. No longer was there a need for anyone to be the mediator between the people and God.

Though the repetition of the annual sacrifices reminded the people of their sinfulness, it also reinforced blame and shame, and it created a “sin rut,” one that they could see no way out of. Blame and shame do not show the way out of the rut. Christ’s sacrifice, made in love, was done once, and our “repetition” of it, found in our ritual of Communion, now reminds us that love showed us the way out of the sin rut.

In verse 26, the world translated “sin” is hamartia in the singular, not plural. However, because the letter is addressed to a community, it appears that this is talking about sin in the collective sense, as if Christ’s sacrifice was intended to dismantle systems of sin that are participated in by many people collectively, either knowingly or unknowingly. God is concerned about human-made systems of oppression that create suffering for humanity.

In addition, the passage makes us think about how we still scapegoat, shame, and blame people. This is particularly true for people who differ from us – as in race, gender, belief systems, and political views, to name a few. In some respects, it’s as if we have our own “sacrificial system” that places blame on others. Christ’s sacrifice, “once for all,” means we don’t have to sacrifice each other in a negative spiral of shame and blame. Verse 26b uses the Greek perfect tense to show that not only was Christ’s sacrifice important at that moment in history, but it is still “in force” today and into eternity. It’s as if humanity is being lifted out of the sin rut of shame and blame by the arms of love in an ongoing effort.

And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28 NRSV)

These verses remind us of our mortality and impermanence, something that we often try to forget or feel as if it is something we need to apologize for. Our elder brother Jesus Christ was also mortal (fully human and fully divine), and it was his mortal humanity that made his sacrifice possible. Who better to understand our weaknesses than one who “has been tested as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15)? Here we are reminded that Christ promised to return, not to deal with sin but to “save” – or usher in salvation in the form of God’s kingdom or system on earth – for those who love him. Christ’s second coming is not about sin, shame, or blame. It’s about love, a transforming love that looks forward to establishing God’s righteous rule on earth.


  • Remind yourself of your value in God’s sight, and let love transform you. When we understand that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit know us intimately, the good and the bad, yet love us without reservation (remember Christ’s sacrifice, “once for all”), it’s as if our “cup of love” is filled and can overflow to others. We are not known or identified by sin or sinful behavior; that is all taken care of in Christ. God sees us in our true identity—his beloved children. We participate with Jesus and through the Holy Spirit he will lead us to change; we become better people as a result of God’s love flowing in us and through us.
  • Celebrate Communion by understanding how we have been set free from the sin rut. Each time we participate in the ritual of Communion, we are reminding ourselves and each other that we are not shamed or blamed by God for our shortcomings. Instead, we are held as precious, worth the very life of Jesus Christ, “once for all.” Love has lifted us up out of the sin rut, and loving others is how we participate with Christ in helping set them free.
  • Examine yourself for ways that you still engage in patterns of shaming and blaming others. Our culture encourages us to point fingers, compare ourselves, and engage in other shaming and blaming behaviors. By remembering who we are in Christ, and by remembering others are also God’s beloved, we can express transforming love to others even in situations where holding them accountable is necessary. We remember that shame and blame don’t change people; love does.

Even though the pictures of the guilty pets we saw in the beginning were funny, shame and blame are not funny. Shame and blame are used to put others down – the opposite of what God calls us to do – and are ineffective means of getting someone to change. That is why the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit reached out to humanity in loving sacrifice, “once for all,” so that we could be transformed by love and then extend that transforming love to one another. May God help us share his love and life with others through the good news that Jesus removed our shame, and there is therefore no reason to blame.


Small Group Discussion Questions

  • How does knowing that God isn’t interested in shaming or blaming you make you feel?
  • How does knowing this affect your relationships with others?
  • How does viewing Communion as a celebration of breaking free of our “sin rut” add meaning to our participation?
  • Rather than making you feel guilty, does it help you recognize your worth in God’s sight?
  • What are some things that can cause persons in a church community to feel shame?  
  • Have you ever been in a church where you have been made to feel ashamed?  By church members?  By church leadership?  
  • Have you ever been in a church where others have been made to feel ashamed?  
  • What happened?  Did it help?  
  • What can we do to avoid being that kind of church … or ever becoming one?  



Hebrews 5:1-5

Hebrews 5:6-10

Hebrews 5:11-14

Hebrews 6:1-3

Teaching Notes: God the Son

From The GCI Statement of Beliefs:

  1. The Son of God is the second Person of the triune God, eternally begotten of the Father.
  2. He is the Word and the express image of the Father.
  3. The Father created all things through the Son, and the Son sustains all things by his word.
  4. He was sent by the Father to be God revealed in the flesh for our salvation, Jesus Christ.
  5. Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, fully God and fully human, two natures in one Person.
  6. He is the Son of God and Lord of all, worthy of worship, honor and reverence.
  7. As the prophesied Savior of humanity, he suffered and died for all human sin, was raised bodily from the dead, and ascended to heaven.
  8. Taking on our broken and alienated humanity, he has included the entire human race in his right relationship with the Father, so that in his regeneration of our humanity we share in his sonship, being adopted as God’s own children in the power of the Spirit.
  9. As our representative and substitute, he stands in for all humanity before the Father, providing the perfect human response to God on our behalf and reconciling humanity to the Father.
  10. He will come again in glory as King of kings over all nations.

Here are GCI articles concerning Jesus Christ:

Concerning our union with Jesus Christ … 
Addressing the topic of the Son of God will often lead to questions concerning Jesus’ union with the Father (and the Spirit), and Jesus’ union with humanity.   Here are some notes concerning three types of union that will help you answer these questions:

1. The union of the three divine Persons (the ontological union)
The Nicene Creed addresses the union of the Son of God with the Father by saying that the Son is “of one Being with the Father.”  That phrase, which in Greek is homoousios to Patri, is of great consequence in the Creed and thus in the historic, orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.  Homoousios means of one being (or of one substance).  In saying that Jesus is of one being with the Father, the Creed is declaring that both the Father and the Son (Jesus) are God (and later creeds say the same for the Spirit).  In short, the three Persons of the Trinity share the one Being of God.  Theologians call this union of the Godhead the ontological union (a union pertaining to God’s Being).


2. The union of God and humanity in Jesus Christ (the hypostatic union)
A fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith is the Incarnation.  Through the Incarnation, the eternal Son of God maintained his eternal divine nature while assuming to himself our human nature.  In doing so, the Son of God remained fully one with God (divine) while becoming fully human.  In this way, through the union of the two natures in the one Person of the eternal Son of God, God was joined to humanity in Jesus Christ.  This union is referred to by theologians as the hypostatic union.  Because of the hypostatic union and all it means, GCI declares that all are included (and the related phrase, you’re included).  By these phrases we mean that in and through Jesus Christ, God has reconciled all humanity to himself.  God is not estranged from humanity; he has included all people in his love and life.  In and through the humanity of Jesus, God has set humankind on a new footing with himself.  Jesus is the Head of all humanity and on that basis alone, we are to “be reconciled” to God, that is, we are to live out or live into that gift of reconciliation with God already given in Christ  (Ephesians 1:10;  Romans 5:14;  1 Corinthians 15:22, 45-47; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

Does the hypostatic union mean that God and humanity have, in Christ, been fused into a common or shared being? …  No.   In the Incarnation, God did not turn into a man, nor was humanity converted into God (or some sort of divine being).  In Jesus, the two natures (divine and human) remain distinct — they are not fused or confused with one another.  Nor did the unity of the two natures in Jesus result in a third kind of being that was neither God nor human.  Rather than an impersonal fusion of being, the hypostatic union is a dynamic and personal unity — the perfect harmonization of the two natures in the one Person of Jesus Christ.

What happened to human nature as the result of the hypostatic union? … Our human nature, under the conditions of the fall (i.e. our fallen human nature), was assumed and then turned around, renewed and regenerated in Jesus, step-by-step, through the course of his entire human life — from conception, through life, death, resurrection and ascension.  Jesus’ whole life was thus salvific (of saving value), culminating in the cross and resurrection as he lived a life of faithful obedience in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in perfect holy and loving communion with the Father.  This could happen only in the Son of God who remained what he was (divine) while assuming to himself also what was ours — our human nature.  Thus, our whole salvation was complete and finished in Jesus Christ  (Titus 3:5;  Luke 2:52;  Hebrews 5:8, 2:11;  John 17:19; 1 Corinthians 1:30 … 2 Timothy 2:10).


3. The union of God with believers (the spiritual union)
Because of the regeneration of human nature in Jesus, who is the new Head of humanity, the Holy Spirit is able to minister in a new and deeper way in the lives of all people so that they might share in the new human nature forged for them in Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit thus works out in us what Christ has accomplished for us.   By the Holy Spirit, we can share in the Son’s relationship of sonship with the Father, and so by grace become God’s adopted children who live in communion with the Father through the Son (Ephesians 2:15).   In the New Testament, our personally receiving and sharing in the Son’s communion with the Father is called union with Christ, or being in Christ, or being in the Lord.   Through that union (which, in GCI we refer to as the spiritual union) believers, in and by the Holy Spirit, share in what was accomplished by Jesus in the hypostatic unionThe Holy Spirit thus acts and ministers on the basis of the hypostatic union to establish the spiritual union by which individuals personally respond and freely receive the freely-given gift of our salvation that, already, is complete in Christ.

**  To learn more about the distinctions between these three types of union, and the related topic of the differences between believers and unbelievers, see GCI’s essay Clarifying Our Theological Vision.



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