So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God...2 Timothy 1:8
Many of you work in places where the majority of people around you are not Christians. Some of them are antiChristian, perhaps even violently so, so there may be times when you feel ashamed that you are a Christian. You are afraid people will find out; or, if they already know that you are a Christian, you tend to keep it quiet and not say much about it. That is a nearly universal experience for Christians who have any contact at all with nonChristians; and that is the problem the apostle takes up now with Timothy, his son in the faith, ministering in the great, pagan city of Ephesus.
I think Timothy was tempted, at least, to be ashamed of the Lord because Jesus is invisible. You have probably felt ashamed because of that too. To talk about a Lord who is the most important being in your life and yet not be able to show Him to people or allow them to hear Him, to maintain that a man who lived two thousand years ago is still alive today in a vital relationship with you, is to expose yourself to the ridicule and incredulity of many. Timothy felt that way too.
Furthermore, Timothy was tempted to be ashamed of Paul because Paul was a political prisoner, on the outs with the administration of the Roman Empire and viewed as an enemy of the emperor and destructive to society. Paul urges Timothy to overcome that.
And third, Timothy was ashamed of the gospel. I have felt that way, and I am sure you have too, because the gospel in its basic element is insulting to people's pride. The world loves imagining itself to be adequate to solve its problems. Individuals often manifest a remarkable sense of self-sufficiency and independence; they refuse to admit that they need any help. But the basic declaration of the gospel is that people are helpless and lost.
At a conference in San Diego, the opening message was brought by Luis Palau. In his address, Luis told of two incidents. The first concerned his leading the president of one of the South American republics to the Lord and the second of his leading a janitor to the Lord in the city of Atlanta. What Luis pointed out was that the president and the janitor had to come exactly the same way--they both had to admit they were hopelessly lost and that they had no abilities in themselves to deliver themselves from what was destroying their lives. Both of them had to cast themselves on the saving mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ, and both of them manifested tremendous change afterwards. That is what the gospel does: It undercuts the pride, the self-sufficiency, and the arrogance of people. As a result, we tend to be ashamed sometimes of speaking of the gospel to proud individuals.
I pray that I may be willing to stand, willing to be tested, willing to endure, and willing to resist the temptation to be ashamed of the gospel.
Self-sufficiency, and all other forms of pride, cause resistance to the gospel. After a self-exam, is this also the reason we lack courage to speak publicly of God's grace?