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The Disbelief Of Shame

Have you ever told someone that they “ought to be ashamed of themselves”? Or maybe you’ve had someone tell you, that “you ought to be ashamed of yourself”. Between the two, the answer is likely “YES” for everyone.

The fact is that sometimes we should be ashamed. When an adult is caught cheating on their taxes, or a child is caught cheating on a test... shame is well-placed. Those people “ought to be ashamed.”

But sometimes we can have misplaced shame and be ashamed of things that we shouldn’t be. An Olympic runner from a small country, who tries his best but finishes dead last, might return home ashamed of his performance, but he shouldn’t. We might be embarrassed, if we show up somewhere over or under dressed, but that is an example of misplaced shame.

We can also see examples of well placed and misplaced spiritual shame as well.

Peter tells us, that when we suffer because of our sin (as a murderer or a thief or evildoer or as a meddler), then we should be ashamed. But we should not be ashamed, if we suffer persecution for being a Christian.

1 Peter 4:12-16 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

The pattern that we see is that a person’s shame shouldn’t rest in what they think of themselves or what other people think of them…but of what GOD thinks of them.

And that’s easy to agree with, right? Good. Because you need to keep that in mind, as we start to think about the shame of sin.

In Luke 7:36-50 we read about a sinful woman, who was so ashamed of her own sin that she washed Jesus’ feet with her tears. Jesus described her as a debtor, who was buried under crushing debt that she could never possibly recover from. That woman’s shame was well deserved.

But then Jesus forgave the woman of her sins. They were gone. Completely wiped away. How should the woman have felt then?

If we all agree that our shame should be regulated by what God thinks of us rather than what man thinks of us—And Jesus told the woman that those sins were completely forgiven—Then if she still felt shame for those forgiven sins would that shame be legitimate?

The shame of forgiven sins is misplaced shame.

And it’s misplaced, because that shame is based on what other people think of us (or what we think of ourselves) rather than what God thinks of us.

When we read passages like . . .

Psalm 130:3-4 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.

Isaiah 55:6-7 Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

When we read those passages, we are left with a choice of who to believe . . .

  • Will we believe the world, when they scoff at our sins like the Pharisees did to the woman?
  • Will we believe ourselves, when the shame and guilt of sin won’t leave us after we’ve repented of it?
  • Or will we believe God, who has promised to forgive us?

We need to acknowledge, that if we are carrying around a burden of guilt, dragging that baggage that just keeps getting heavier and heavier each day, if we feel burdened down with the shame of sins from your past….The problem may be that we’re putting our trust in other people or ourselves more than God, who has promised that he’ll forgive us of our sins.

Lamentations 3:21-24 But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”