“Every culture or era has its own way of defining issues that invoke shame or guilt. These are connected, but different. Guilt is a feeling associated with things done or not done. Shame has a much deeper and wider impact. It is, in a sense, a deep embarrassment about who we are. It is an almost visceral contempt for some act or behaviour that leaves you feeling disgust, contempt, or humiliation... at yourself.”
—Stuart McAllister (via Ravi Zacharias International Ministries)
Whilst there are many reasons to feel good in life, especially within the realm of faith, there are, without doubt, a profusion of factors that lead us to experience guilt and shame. Guilt seems to be more directly about us, and what we’ve done and not done. Shame, on the other hand, seems more directed about who we are, and of what we’ve become. Shame seems to be at the hand of what has been dealt us, very often either beyond our control or beyond our insight at the time.
The fact is we are all plagued, in some ways, with guilt and shame.
Sometimes guilt and shame play a role in forming godliness—in cases where the Spirit of God compels us to acknowledge our sin, so we have the opportunity to repent. But there are also many more cases where guilt and shame run beyond our overt sinfulness.
Reconciling Reconcilable Guilt and Shame
We can always transcend guilt and shame if we are conscious of it.
We can know, in God, through the Lord Jesus Christ’s saving act on the cross and through his resurrection, that there is now no condemnation for those who believe upon Jesus’ name. We who believe are in receipt of life-giving grace. There is now no place for guilt or shame, other than that which is intended to bring us to a precipice of awareness in accord to our sin.
So when we can consider that guilt and shame only ever have a temporary role, and that God has forgiven us of the weight and content of our previous or underpinning guilt and shame, we live freer lives.
All this previous or underpinning guilt and shame is reconcilable—under God’s rule of our hearts. The knowledge of God will convince us that Jesus has taken the burden of our guilt and shame. At the foot of the cross we lay our wreaths of infraction against God.
We can add nothing to the facts of our salvation.
This is comprehensively the most wonderful knowledge all humankind could know. The things we can do nothing about—our once-separatedness from God—has been amended, and there is nothing we could do, now or ever, to interrupt this is all-consuming grace.
Having been forgiven by God there is now no role for enduring guilt or shame. All that we would be guilty or ashamed of is now subsumed in the cross of Christ. Such a liberating truth sets us free to love every single day.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.