Published on June 19th, 2018 | by Anna Northup
The Day I Walked Out of the Theater: Social Shame and the Gospel
It started out just fine.
A cast I admired, an intimate and dark setting, a sense of excitement as the audience chattered in low voices before the first act. I sat in excited anticipation. The cast was all I expected them to be– funny, engaging, perfect for their individual roles. They had the audience chuckling in the first minute.
But I was surprised by the outburst of profanity as the play progressed– and, soon to follow, sexual innuendo, locker room talk, and blatant lust.
I sat uncertainly on the edge of my seat.
I should leave, I thought, I should walk right down those stairs and leave. It doesn’t matter what they all think. It doesn’t matter that this cast will probably call me out. I just need to stop hearing this.
But I was paralyzed– the close, intimate arrangement of the audience meant that leaving would draw all eyes to me and I would be passing within feet of the actors. And though I felt God tugging at my heart, I remained seated in fear.
As the play wore on, I told myself I’d leave after the next sexual comment, the next lewd reference. But each time I froze– until I heard the words in my heart: “I will not be mocked.” (Galatians 6:7)
I had no doubt it was the Lord reminding me of what I was doing. And I realized that, as uncomfortable as I felt drawing attention to myself and potentially embarrassing the friends who invited me, I couldn’t keep filling my eyes and ears with sin. I couldn’t keep watching what made a mockery of our King. I couldn’t expect to eat of the world and still taste God’s glory.
A moment later, they closed the curtain for Act 1. A little nervous, but determined to go through with it, I explained to the friend who bought my ticket why I couldn’t stay. She was understanding, and we parted on good terms when I left early.
However, that was not so with my family. They are not yet believers in Christ, and didn’t understand my need to obey the Lord at the cost of being labelled a “social weirdo.” Their reprimand stung, but the Lord’s words came to mind: “If I am for you, who can be against you?” (Romans 8:31)
And I was comforted in knowing that he understood.
So what can we do when we have to make that choice between being socially acceptable and standing for Christ? When the latter comes with a real, painful cost?
Here are four things that I’ve found greatly help:
1. We can prepare beforehand.
Don’t be surprised when the fiery trials come, Peter says. We need to be ready for the awkward silence, the snide comment, the cold shoulder, the whispers. This should not shock us– the gospel, and even the name of Jesus Christ, can be offensive! Don’t bank on a negative response to your witness, but realize that it will eventually come when we are serious about living for God.
Take a few minutes before situations where God may put it on your heart to make a counter-cultural decision– in a movie theater, in a classroom, in a family discussion– and remember that, though hard, it is a blessing.
I know I would have felt more confident in my witness for Christ if I had prepared beforehand!
2. We can know the reward awaiting us.
Jesus promises that when we’re made fun of, there’s a great reward for us in heaven– that we should rejoice (Matthew 5:11)!
Our step in faith pleases our King, and when I remember I’m living for his smile and not the world’s, I am often provided with the courage to stand and speak! Furthermore, living at a cost to ourselves for his sake, Jesus says, is proof of the authenticity of our faith and our desire to live a godly faith (2 Timothy 3:12).
3. We can know God is doing a thousand things through this stand that we can’t see.
We may never know what God is doing for and through us– a single word spoken for Christ can plant many seeds God may grow years later, or it may deeply encourage a struggling brother or sister.
We can’t underestimate what God will do with our simple obedience!
4. We can (and must) pray.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of this, which I’m only realizing because I fail so often at it. We cannot be “strengthened with all might according to his glorious riches” without “wisdom and understanding of the Spirit”, and our connection between ourselves and Christ through the Spirit is in prayer.
God will give us courage and wisdom with words– we must only ask and trust (James 1:5).
One last thing to remember– Jesus says: “You do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with your weaknesses, but one who in every way was tempted just as you are.” (Hebrew 4:15).
Our Lord, our very own Jesus, endured the social shame that came with the stand for Truth. He endured the strange looks, the insults, the scoffing. And I doubt he felt comfortable about it. It must have hurt to have his own family mock and despise him.
We are not alone– we follow in our Savior’s footsteps, and that will often mean rubbing the world the wrong way. But we must remember that truth is on our side.
After all, if the all-powerful King of the universe is with us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)