Shame & Guilt
“If this problem persists, we are going to call you out of the audience and shame you in front of everyone” the pastor told the youth group “we will call your parents up in front of the congregation and you will have to go and sit with them.”
It is still difficult to believe that I had the misfortune of witnessing this event. It is also difficult to believe that in the process of sticking up for the youth I would get kicked out of the church. But at the same time if this even had not happened almost five years ago there is a good chance God’s Heart for Those never happens and I would still be somewhere huddled over my legalism, licking the wounds of two years of spiritual abuse.
Yes, that morning began the path to freedom for me, but there are others who still have not experienced this freedom because of these two little words that the body has embraced whole heartedly, “Shame” and “Guilt.” Shame, or the act of putting someone to shame is a tear down, to humiliate someone or berate their actions. Guilt is the feeling of remorse as well as shame. Both are deadly to the body and we do not need either of them.
Consider this scenario, a young man spills his coffee in the Narthex of a church. The pastor seeing this berates the young man, shaming him for something as simple as spilling coffee. The young man now feels shame and guilt for spilling his coffee. It may start there, or after a few more encounters like this the man may start to verbally berate himself for doing something that the pastor may consider “wrong.” Or consider the girl who is abused, verbally, physically or sexually and a or counselor or another Christian tells her it was her fault. Chances are that was already the thought process but in case it was not this may cause her to verbally berate and degrade herself, losing respect for herself if she had any in the first place. Do you see the problem? This can lead to depression and even suicide, shame and guilt can literally be deadly. They may also cause spiritual setbacks in the process of emotional healing. These are two examples (one minor one major) that show us that we do not need either.
But what do we need? We need to regain an understanding of what Paul means in Romans 8:1 which reads “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” Or John 8:36 which reads: “Who the son sets free is free indeed.” Or Galations 5:1: “For freedom Christ has set us free, Stand firm therefore, and do not return to a yoke of slavery.” If there is no condemnation, if we are free, are to stand firm in that freedom then why do we insist on using shame and guilt to control and berate the flock? Are not people like these the “thief” that Jesus describes in John 10:10? If they have stolen your freedom by binding you in guilt then they are a thief, if they lock you down as a “sinner” how are you going to live in the freedom that comes from putting on “the new self” (Col 3)?
Even Paul’s frustration with the Corinthians is untoned by his use of the word “Saint” (1 Cor 1:2). If we are “free” then why do we bind one another with condemnation? Are we not no better than the Pharisees’ who bound the people by “Tradition” (Matt. 15)? If I have one thing to say the body of Christ it is this: You are no longer who you once were, you are a son or a daughter of Christ (Rom. 3-8) you are a Saint, you are not under shame and guilt and condemnation, you are free.
But do we acknowledge this in our own lives? Do we acknowledge this is the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ? Most of us do not.
So let us join together and acknowledge who God is and who we are because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. And that dear friends is the difference, that Jesus Christ died fo us on the cross, shedding His blood to be the Propitiation (total appeasement of wrath) so that we could live in freedom with a brand new identity. Never let anyone tell you differently, never listen to shame and guilt, but instead live in the freedom that comes from know who God is and who you are in Him.