This Sunday evening, the world will watch the Academy Awards. It’s an odd year, with most theaters closed during COVID-19, and many productions hampered or postponed. The event itself will be adjusted for COVID-19 precautions. Still, careers will be made, and new movies will become instant classics.
In 2017, Casey Affleck won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in “Manchester by the Sea.” When the movie received numerous Oscar nominations, we decided to watch it. What could be more romantic than sunrise over the bay, New England houses lining the shore and boats gently resting in the harbor?
But “Manchester by the Sea” turned out to be no romance. It’s a tragedy that slowly unfolds through flashbacks in the mind of Lee Chandler, the main character, played by Affleck, as he wrestles with his brother’s death and guardianship of his brother’s son. To fulfill his brother’s dying wish, he must move back to Manchester by the Sea, the site of his shame.
As the movie unfolds, we eventually learn the depth of that shame, a shame so deep that he despises himself. His personal sense of shame prevents him from receiving love, acceptance and forgiveness from others. Chandler is incapable of loving or being loved. He’s a tortured soul.
This is what sin does. We not only feel guilt for our sins, we also experience shame, guilt’s more devastating accomplice. This is what happened to Chandler. His shame causes him to hide in Boston, bitter, alone, cynical and angry. Sadly, in Lee’s case, he’s not able to overcome his shame to receive the love of others or of God.
The Bible has 198 references to “shame” and to being “ashamed.” We first see evidences of shame after Adam and Eve willfully disobey God’s command. When God created man and woman, the Bible says, “Adam and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:24). But, after their sin, they are ashamed and hide themselves from one another and from God.
God comes looking for us. Just as he searched for Adam and Eve who trembled with shame in their hiding place. He comes to remove our shame and restore our relationship to God and to one another. God gently and tenderly clothed them as we clothe our children.
For this reason, God sent his son to search for us and to die for us. Jesus said, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” And Hebrews exhorts us to fix our eyes upon Jesus, “the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2).
All our guilt and all our shame can be removed when we accept God’s redemptive love through his Son, Jesus Christ. We need no longer be crippled by shame. His sacrifice is greater than our sin. We can again love God, ourselves and others.