Monday, June 24, 2013

Something Worse Than Shame

There is something worse than feeling shame when you do something shameful. As God said through Jeremiah:

How can you say, ‘We are wise,
    and the law of the Lord is with us’?
But behold, the lying pen of the scribes
    has made it into a lie.
The wise men shall be put to shame;
    they shall be dismayed and taken;
behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord,
    so what wisdom is in them?
Therefore I will give their wives to others
    and their fields to conquerors,
because from the least to the greatest
    everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
from prophet to priest,
    everyone deals falsely.
They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
    saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
    when there is no peace.
Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
    No, they were not at all ashamed;
    they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among the fallen;
    when I punish them, they shall be overthrown,
says the Lord. (Jeremiah 8:8-12)

But there's something significantly better than shame, too. So here, from worse to best, are the three typical responses to shameful acts.

Worst: No shame at all, not even knowing how to blush. Being convinced that there's nothing wrong with it - or worse, that it's actually good. Some go so far as to demand the church and society formally bless and honor their shameful sin. We could call this a hard heart or seared conscience. It's really, really bad.

Sorta better-ish: Feeling shame when you do something shameful - but that's all. You know it's wrong, you feel it's wrong, you're convicted about your sinfulness, but you have no idea what to do about it. By the grace of God this may become godly sorrow. But too often it leads the other way. Instead of repentance unto life, worldly sorrow leads to death. Worldly sorrow attacks the symptom, trying to assuage the conscience by self-justification, or killing the conscience by heart hardening. It's better than being incapable of blushing, depending on which way you go from here.

Best: Repentance and faith unto salvation. Confess sin as sin, agree with God's righteous judgment against it, and admit that there is nothing you could ever do to atone for it. Turn to Jesus in faith, trusting in God's great mercy displayed in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus. The sorrow and shame of lawful conviction lead you to repentance and trust in the only one who can save.

The world is constantly trying to eliminate shame by pretending that sin is OK. The saddest thing is when the church joins them in this self-destructive quest. What we have to offer is so much better than deadening the conscience - the actual removal of shame through the forgiveness of sin which comes only through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Brothers, don't hate them by telling them their sin is fine; love them by telling them how their sin can be forgiven.

1 comment:

Robert said...

Great post. May we all be strong, loving, and compassionate enough to point out areas where repentance is required, as well as humble enough to receive such love from others.