Jer 6:15 (NAS) "Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; they did not even know how to blush."
The Way Of Shame
Shame, guilt, and condemnation are similar in that they all have to do with sin, but different in degree, duration, and scope.
Shame is deeper than guilt. It is not based on having done something wrong so much as a soul ache of being wrong at the core. Shame is more piercing than condemnation where the reality of judgment is mentally apprehended from an outside arbitrator. With shame we palpably feel our own depravity in vivid self-realization.
- Shame is an intense feeling of angst that makes you wish you could evaporate; extreme humiliation and remorse; a despairing of life from abject embarrassment.
- Guilt is realizing you have done wrong, usually for some particular sin.
- Condemnation is being sentenced (convicted) for doing wrong.
With this definition, what could possibly be the benefit of shame in the lives of the redeemed? Should its debilitating presence be given no quarter, or does God use it--even require it? Is it a pity party, or the Holy Spirit's doing?
The Case For Shame
1 Cor 15:34 (Wey) Wake from this drunken fit; live righteous lives, and cease to sin; for some have no knowledge of God: I speak thus in order to move you to shame.
1 Cor 6:5 (Wey) I say this to put you to shame...
Eze 16:63 (NKJ) that you may remember and be ashamed...
Ps 69:5,7 (NKJ) O God, You know my foolishness; and my sins are not hidden from You... Because for Your sake I have borne reproach; shame has covered my face.
Heb 12:2 (Phi) ...For he himself endured a cross and thought nothing of its shame [NIV: scorning its shame] because of the joy he knew would follow his suffering...
The Case Against Shame
Isa 54:4 (NKJ) "Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth..."
Joel 2:27 (NIV) Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.
1 Pet 2:6 (Wey) For it is contained in Scripture, "See, I am placing on Mount Zion a Cornerstone, chosen, and held in honour, and he whose faith rests on Him shall never have reason to feel ashamed."
Now, it might be understood that these and other "no shame" Scriptures are a future promise--spoken as a destiny and hope. Or again it might be pointed out that these types of texts are promising that we will not be ashamed at "throwing in" with God in the long run. But still, there they are: and should we not strive to attain them?
Refusing The Treatment
Is shame good or bad? Useful or destructive? In small doses or large? And what does shame have to do with love?Jer 3:3 (NIV) Therefore the showers have been withheld, and no spring rains have fallen. Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute; you refuse to blush with shame.
In previous studies, we have looked at conviction and condemnation in the way of repentance. Conviction is portrayed in Scripture as the first (welcome) work of the Spirit, and condemnation as the (just) sentence of God on our sinful natures. This much, hopefully, is clear in its practical benefit in our spiritual reflexes to prod us back into Christ when we find ourselves "in the flesh".Jer 6:15 (NAS) "Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; they did not even know how to blush."
Shame might also have a use in our sanctification, and this might be good to understand. For example, often we flinch at looking so closely at our proclivities to sin because we feel a deep sense of shame... and so turn our eye in order to temporarily ease the pain. The sermon is over, the session is done, and we go away from the mirror and forget what we look like. Part of the romance of God may be to prepare us to be a "blushing" bride. We certainly have enough to blush over, if we will just let the Spirit search us. But this blushing of shame "the flesh" HATES more than anything! It touches the very nerve of "self" in a most painful way. So why should we, or why must we, endure this awful feeling?
Reactions To God
Luke 5:8 (Wey) When Simon Peter saw this, he fell down at the knees of Jesus, and exclaimed, "Master, leave my boat, for I am a sinful man."
Simon Peter's response is part of anyone's reaction to a real encounter with God. By seeing Jesus he was "undone" by the resultant heightened sense of his own depravity; how far He was from the glory of God. It is one thing to play with words and self deception concerning our state before the Holy One; it is another to come up against His pure goodness. What we thought we wanted now makes us feel dirty. When goodness is laced with badness it is easier to take, easier to relate to. But pure goodness is alien to us. And we know God is powerful, but to experience that power brings our own insufficiency into the light. We tend to recoil from what we also most want. Jesus did not leave Simon Peter for his honest reaction, speaking words of comfort instead and calling him as an apostle. For Peter's will power had come up against a greater will. But Peter's "reaction" remained for a deeper "treatment" at a later date. Are we greater than Simon Peter? Are we less in need of being saved "in the highest way" than him? Will we not have to be cured of this same problem in the future, even after hearing words of comfort? Even after confessing Christ? Even after walking in intimate fellowship with our Lord?
The Problem Of Self Confidence And Pride
Luke 22:31-34 (Phi) "Oh, Simon, Simon, do you know that Satan has asked to have you all to sift like wheat?--but I have prayed for you that you may not lose your faith. Yes, when you have turned back to me, you must strengthen these brothers of yours." Peter said to him, "Lord, I am ready to go to prison, or even to die with you!" "I tell you, Peter," returned Jesus, "before the cock crows today you will deny three times that you know me!"
Peter was a boaster, being confident in himself. Like us, he was prone to make grand promises to God and then to blow it in actual experience, leading to the ache of shame.Luke 22:59-62 (Phi) "I am convinced this man was with him..." "Man," replied Peter, "I do not know what you are talking about." And immediately, while he was still speaking, the cock crew. The Lord turned his head and looked straight at Peter, and into his mind flashed the words that the Lord had said to him... "You will disown me..." ...and he [Peter] went outside and wept bitterly.
In this dismal process of humiliation we perhaps can understand at a deeper level how God is going to work out that no flesh will boast in His presence. Come on, with us? Really?
God's Method For Turning Us Into Good Lovers
Eze 16: 54,58-61 (NIV) " ...so that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all you have done... You will bear the consequences of your lewdness and your detestable practices... This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will deal with you as you deserve... Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed..."
These shameful failings are indeed painful, but Jesus took the blow for Peter, and for us as well. He was well aware of the emotional impact it would have on Peter when their eyes met. He knew about all this in advance. And it was no whim or chance, it was planned that way. He deliberately chose this path and "took the blow" with/for us because our souls needed this particular medicine.Jer 31:19 (NAS) For after I turned back, I repented; and after I was instructed, I smote on my thigh; I was ashamed, and also humiliated, because I bore the reproach of my youth.
From Glory To Shame And Back Again
In Romans 9-11, Paul gives an overview of God's dealings with genetic Israel (this "generation"--or progeny) and spiritual Israel (the church), pitting the two in temporary contest--yet tracing out God's destiny for each. By the end (where we will now enter in) Paul is soaring as he considers the majesty of God's plan--so full of the mind of Christ he is about to go "bonkers" in verses 33-36. But before he does, he makes an essential point on God's dealing with both the Jews and Gentiles, that is a summation of the wisdom of God.Rom 11:32 (Phi) God has all men penned together in the prison of disobedience, that he may have mercy upon them all.
Rom 11:32 (Wey) For God has locked up all in the prison of unbelief, that upon all alike He may have mercy.
Rom 11:32 (Jer) God has imprisoned all men in their own disobedience only to show mercy to all mankind.
Rom 11:33-36 (NIV) Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! "Who has known the mind of the Lord?" or "Who has been his counselor?" "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever! Amen.
What "sent" Paul into this ecstatic revelry? How can the shame of the fact that all of us have been grievously disobedient end up as being to God's praise and glory?
Answer: The Contrast Of Pharisee And The Really Good Lover
Luke 7:36-38 (Wey) Now one of the Pharisees repeatedly invited Him to a meal at his house; so He entered the house and reclined at the table. And there was a woman in the town who was a notorious sinner. Having learnt that Jesus was at table in the Pharisee's house she brought a flask of perfume, and, standing behind close to His feet, weeping, began to wet His feet with her tears; and with her hair she wiped the tears away again, while she lovingly kissed His feet and poured the perfume over them.
Luke 7:39-40 (Wey) Noticing this, the Pharisee, His host, said to himself, "This man, if he were really a Prophet, would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching him--and would know that she is an immoral woman." In answer to his thoughts Jesus said to him, "Simon, I have a word to say to you." "Rabbi, say on," he replied.
Luke 7:41-43 (NAS) "A certain moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. Which of them therefore will love him more?" Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And Jesus said to him, "You have judged correctly."
Luke 7:44-47 (Wey) Then turning towards the woman He said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house: you gave me no water for my feet; but she has made my feet wet with her tears, and then wiped the tears away with her hair. No kiss did you give me; but she from the moment I came in has not left off tenderly kissing my feet. No oil did you pour even on my head; but she has poured perfume upon my feet. This is the reason why I tell you that her sins, her many sins, are forgiven--because she has loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little."
Sine Qua Non: Without Which Not
Rom 11:32-33 (NIV) For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!....
Let us be clear about this: sin stinks--to us and God--but it has a purpose. Boy it hurts, but God feels the pain all the more. So why does He in His Sovereignty allow us to make such a mess, especially if He Himself feels the pain more acutely than we do? Is this really the right way to cure our wound? Is this the treatment needed to craft souls that can and will show true eternal passion towards God?Luke 7:47 (Phi) "That is why I tell you that her sins, many as they were, are forgiven; for she has so much love. But the man who has little to be forgiven has only a little love to give."
Notice, here, that Jesus is not content with the positive case; he comes around and underscores the negative case. Those forgiven little are in the position of disadvantage when it comes to love. Wild! So, having been exposed by God so grievously entrapped by sin, we find ourselves at once ashamed and at once joyous. For God has made "good lovers" of us after all. And He knew just how to do it. It certainly was not our idea! We did not counsel Him to do it this way!
The Way Of "Much Love"
On seeing this, we are moved to lavish His feet with kisses and wipe His feet with our hair. Let the Pharisees see it and "have a cow". For we know from what He has saved us, and feel the shame as palpably as the glory of His salvation, and cannot help but praise His Holy Name for saving us in the highest way. Let them look, we are enraptured with our Savior.Ps 40:1-3 (NIV) I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see it and fear and put their trust in the Lord.
Ps 40:5 (NKJ) Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works which You have done; And Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order; If I would declare and speak of them, They are more than can be numbered.
Notice, above, that David launches off into ecstatic praise similar to Paul's--from the same insight that "sent" Paul into God's presence: the shame of our own need.
The Residue Of Shame And The Eternity Of Love
Our attempts at love before were ephemeral and fickle. Sure, we have had our good moments, and hope for more, but then again our duplicity surfaces. How did we ever think this would do? Was God going to wave a magic wand and "cheat" to cure us? No, this is not like Him. His solution is just and true, and it will work forever. Beyond recognizing we have sinned (guilt) and that God has seen it (condemnation), feeling shame for WHO WE ARE is "fit" for us as well. It transforms the instincts of our hearts and shatters every idol of our own self-sufficiency.Rom 7:24 (NIV) What a wretched man I am!...
Shame is the "school of love" in Christ. Have we dropped out before graduating? Can we still blush?1 Jn 1:8-10 (NAS) If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Love Me As You Did At First?
At first, it was shame that led us to the love and forgiveness of Christ. But we have grown calloused, desensitized, even brazen. Where is the instinct of shame that threw us onto Christ to begin with? Can we now love the Lord as we did at first?Rev 2:2-5 (Wey) "I know your doings and your toil and patient suffering. And I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, but have put to the test those who say that they themselves are Apostles but are not, and you have found them to be liars. And you endure patiently and have borne burdens for My sake and have never grown weary. Yet I have this against you--that you no longer love Me as you did at first. Be mindful, therefore, of the height from which you have fallen. Repent at once, and act as you did at first, or else I will surely come and remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent."
The Example Of Messiah
Heb 12:2 (Phi) ...For he himself endured a cross and thought nothing of its shame because of the joy he knew would follow his suffering...
Heb 12:2 (Wey) ...He, for the sake of the joy which lay before Him, patiently endured the cross, looking with contempt upon its shame..
Heb 12:2 (Jer) Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings us to perfection: for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, he endured the cross, disregarding the shamefulness of it, and from now on has taken his place at the right hand of God's throne.
Phil 2:5,8-9 (Phi) Let your attitude to life be that of Christ Jesus himself... He humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, to the point of death, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal. That is why God has now lifted him to the heights, and given him the name above all names.
Shame is the wounding of our flesh towards its death with the truth of God.
The Way Of Shame
If we will but see it, God has revealed the glory of THE WAY in which He is saving us. He is not merely "just" and "true" in the abstract, or in the "big picture", just and true are His ways as well.Dan 4:37 (NIV) "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, [after the shameful rebuke of the Lord] praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble."
Acts 5:41 (NAS) So they went... rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
Shame And The Sovereignty Of God
We are persuaded by Scripture that God has in mind to rebuke all flesh, and to "get in our faces" about election in these last days. This will be consummated in the final reconciliation of Israel after showing the world just how rotten they are. This grand display of God's prerogative will be the ultimate revelation of election, to be sure, and He is turning this same fire loose on the church in advance, so that we can be purified as well. Many of the previous texts, it might be pointed out, concern Israel.
But are we less apostate than the Jews? More discerning? More obedient given the riches we have in Messiah? The truth is, that even with such advantages, the Lord's name is blasphemed most lavishly and without repentance by us.
If the "shame treatment" is good enough for Israel in large doses (and stand by for the largest dose), then we in the church should revel in getting the same treatment. We are indeed "first fruits".
The Shame Of The Church
The modern church seems divided into two camps: One that thinks anything purporting to be supernatural is of God without testing or discernment (the "horneys"), and the others who would just as soon have God leave them alone now that they are "saved" (the "frigids"). Each group justifies itself by comparing itself to the excesses of the other. As this pathology continues, healing and unity look even more unlikely as we diverge into alternate ditches off of the narrow path.
"A house divided cannot stand," our Lord said. Considering this, only God can save us now from the storm to come. He told us in advance--just like he told Peter that he would surely fall away--and this episode appears to be necessary to God "saving us in the highest way". But, boy, is it ugly to consider.
Mat 26:75 (Phi) ...and he [Peter] went outside and wept bitterly.What was our basis for glory--the finished work of Christ--has now become the crowning horror of our shame. We are without excuse on every side, showing unbelief and disobedience in legalism and license, despite every encouragement and warning given. But the good news--the supernatural spark of hope--is that our shame may yet become His glory.
The Shame Of The Ingathering
Zeph 2:1-3 (NIV) Gather together, gather together, O shameful nation, before the appointed time arrives and that day sweeps on like chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord comes upon you, before the day of the Lord's wrath comes upon you. Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord's anger.
Hos 5:15-6:2 (NIV) "Then I [the Lord] will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me."..."Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence."
Feel it? It is the unfinished suffering of Messiah. Out of such shame will God make His election most obvious. And if the church falls away from such riches even now, then let us welcome the "treatment" given to those God loves enough to bring so low, only to exalt in due time. Perhaps this is the proper training even, for those servants chosen to minister encouragement and safety to the people God loves enough to bring even lower before exalting them to the highest place?Luke 22:32 (NIV) "But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."