The Weight of Shame
by Burk Parsons
Shame—we all feel it, or at least we should. We are all sinful, and our sin brings shame. Although shame has all but disappeared from our culture’s vocabulary and is largely ignored by many in the church, it exists nonetheless and must be recognized and reckoned with.
If we are honest with ourselves, and more importantly, honest with God, we cannot help but admit that we feel shame as a result of our sin. Whether we sin in private or in public—and whether we perhaps even pretend not to have it—shame is undeniably real. We feel shame because God in His grace created all human beings with the capacity to feel shame as a consequence of their sin. John Calvin wrote, “Only those who have learned well to be earnestly dissatisfied with themselves, and to be confounded with shame at their wretchedness truly understand the Christian gospel.” If we have never truly felt the shame of our sin, we have never truly repented of our sin. For it is only when we recognize what wretches we are that we are able to sing “Amazing Grace” and know what a sweet sound it truly is.
Even when we are young children—from the very first moment in our lives when we know we’ve done something wrong—we blush and hang our heads in shame. The question is not whether we feel shame, but what we do with our shame. Some try to hide their shame, some try to ignore it as long as possible, some grow callous and complacent toward their shame, and some wallow in their shame and live their lives in quiet desperation. However, as Christians, we have a place to go with our shame—the foot of the cross. We have a Redeemer who has taken our shame to the cross. So we sing, “Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood, sealed my pardon with his blood: Hallelujah, what a Savior.”
Jesus Christ redeemed us not only from His wrath and hell in the future but from having to wallow in the mire of guilt and shame in the present. Jesus promised us not only eternal life in the future, but abundant life that begins in the present. Jesus lived and died not only for the guilt of our sin but for the shame of our sin. He endured the cross, despising its shame, so that we would not have to wallow in shame. Our Lord calls us to bring our shame to Him, whereas Satan wants us to bear the constant weight of our shame and wallow in it for the rest of our lives. But if we live each day bearing the shame of yesterday, and we’re worried about the shame of tomorrow, we will never experience the joys of abundant life in Christ today. Therefore, let us lift our weary eyes from gazing upon our shame and fix our eyes of Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.