We live in a culture where shame and guilt permeate everything and everyone with an infection so destructive and thorough; and it seems there’s no antidote. We often witness the destructive nature of shame and guilt through words, physical abuse, social media, identity politics and other metrics used to measure another person’s worth or value—with the end game being the destruction of someone’s dignity.
Another way people use shame and guilt is to cover up their own insecurities and deficiencies. A perfect example of this idea is found in the story of creation. Satan’s tried to usurp God’s authority and make himself a god because of his own insecurities and deficiencies. When this didn’t work, Satan then pushed his insecurities and deficiencies onto Adam and Eve.
In Genesis chapter three, Adam and Eve are lured and hooked by the lies of the serpent. In doing this they created a situation where shame and guilt infiltrated their hearts and lead to their self-condemnation. But what’s interesting is what happened next. When God reached out to Adam and Eve, God did so without tearing them down with condemning words or looks.
Instead, God spoke truth in love to them. God asked them why they were hiding. God wanted to know what caused shame and guilt to fill their hearts — something that God never intended for them to experience.
Their response to God was out of their own condemnation from their self-prescribed shame and guilt from them listening to the lies of Satan. This self-prescribed condemnation wasn’t because they were naked — it’s because they chose themselves over God, which they knew all too well.
Consequences of Shame and Guilt.
It took God to redeem the situation. God had to move Adam and Eve beyond their shame and guilt so they could experience reconciliation and restoration with their Creator. God also passed judgment on Satan — the root and cause of this whole debacle; and set a plan in motion — leading to the cross of Christ (Genesis 3:15).
Because of their decision to believe Satan’s lies, Adam and Eve’s lives became harder — they no longer had a place in the garden. But God didn’t abandon them — God gave them clothing to cover up their nakedness and instructions on how to live beyond the garden (See Genesis 3:21).
Shame and guilt lead to a loveless and empty life with the ultimate outcome of death.
Grace and Forgiveness.Shame and Guilt are the opposite of Grace and Forgiveness. Shame and Guilt dishearten and destroy while Grace and Forgiveness encourage and restore. God never shames or guilts people — it’s not in his character or his vocabulary.
We see an example of this in the gospel of John after Jesus confronted the religious leaders who were condemning a blind man for worshipping Jesus after Jesus healed him:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” — John 10:10
Jesus came to give life, not death.
Satan wants you to think your place is among the condemned. But Jesus does the opposite: Jesus moves us beyond our shame and guilt and puts us right next to Him. And this is how our Father in heaven sees us — without shame and guilt all because of the love of Jesus Christ.
I love this quote from Dave Stone,
“Satan knows you by your name but calls you by your sin. Jesus knows your sin but calls you by your name.”
Jesus has a different message.
Jesus tells his followers to be like him and spread the message of love, grace, and forgiveness. Shame and Guilt have no place in Jesus’ Church — these words should be foreign to us and not natural.
A friend once told me something that has changed the trajectory of my life and walk with Jesus and how I interact with people daily: He told me the reason we love people is not so they will become Christians, but because we are Christians.
Once we begin to see our relationships in this way, people will no longer become projects or problems for us to fix. If we allow people to make mistakes without feeling the backlash of condemnation and love them unconditionally for who they are, we give them the freedom and opportunity to explore all that God has in-store for them.
By doing this we can encourage them to keep moving forward so they can become more like Jesus.
Now, there’s a time and place for us to confront people about their issues and sin, but it’s not our job to make people feel bad about themselves. What we get to do is to love Jesus and love like him.