…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3

I don’t usually include such a long piece of Scripture, afraid it would be more than you’d want to read. But this is important in its entirety. I hope it will help you receive the courage that the apostle Paul, the writer here, intends to instill in us.

Many of us live with illnesses or problems considered shameful by others. Sometimes, as many of you know, this shame that’s laid upon us is more painful than the illness itself. It can cause severe emotional problems.

Being hung on a cross to die was the most shameful and painful form of punishment during Roman times. Jesus died hanging on a cross, treated as a sinner, carrying the guilt of all humanity on him. Think of what that must have meant to this man we know for his holiness, goodness and perfection! Think of what he must have felt!

My thoughts turn to how we who experience the shame of stigma have much to learn from Jesus’ experience. Stigma held towards those with illness and disability is, of course, not nearly as horrendously painful as what Jesus went through. Yet it’s cruel, especially when we consider that the stigmatized person has done nothing wrong to deserve it.

Among many things, shame brings with it disrespect, humiliation and contempt. Isn’t that what happened when Jesus was hung on the cross? I’m not undermining the horrendous pain Jesus underwent, yet it does bear a resemblance to what some of us deal with. Those who are familiar with such treatment will understand a little about Christ’s suffering. And, along with this understanding, a better closeness to him can develop.

What can we learn from Jesus when we look at his response to the cross?

The Bible says that he scorned the cross’s shame. He shrugged it off. Ignored it. The work he was doing for his Father was far more important than worrying about such things. His Father’s work was all Jesus focused on. Shame that others put upon him did not distract him. Though he knew he would die an excruciating death, the Bible says that “for the joy set before him” he endured it. Jesus always remembered the good it would do for mankind. His heart and mind were full of love.

Can we do the same? Can we endure being looked down on and thought ill of? Can we shrug off the shame, realizing it comes from the ignorant and proud? It’s not from God, and thus not worthy of our attention.

We must ignore the shame the world casts upon us. God loves us. He is the only one worth listening to. We live and work for the Lord, not the world.

Consider Jesus and how he lived and loved and suffered. Consider what he went through and how he endured. Join with him, to your best ability following his example. We who have decided to follow Jesus don’t live and die for ourselves. We live for something much better. We live for God and what he calls us to do.

Keep your eyes on Jesus and this won’t be hard to do.