Shame on Me

Shame on Me

By J. Mark Jordan

July 2018
Pentecostal Life 

Download the July 2018 Facilitator Guide to accompany this article.

Objective: To learn how to overcome shame by the grace of God and the blood of Jesus Christ

The humiliation caused by shame is often unbearable. Before Amnon brutally forced his sister, Tamar, into an unspeakable sin, she pleaded with him to restrain himself, crying, “And I, where could I take my shame?” (II Samuel 13:13, NKJV). Knowing the social realities of the day, her keen insight into the consequences of Amnon’s dark urges spelled unmitigated disaster for her. “Then Tamar put ashes on her head and tore her robe of many colors that wason her and laid her hand on her head and went away crying bitterly. . . . So, Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom's house”(II Samuel 13:19–20, NKJV).

Of all the human emotions, bitter shame may be the worst. It not only degrades a person because of the disapproval and ridicule of others, a victim can internalize the feeling or conviction that he or she is not a worthy human being: “If you hate me, maybe I should hate myself. Nobody respects me.” Tamar may have been the victim of abuse, but shame blurs the lines of culpability. She knew that people would look at her differently. Some may have even speculated whether she was the one who seduced Amnon, much like Potiphar’s wife tried to entrap Joseph. No matter. She was now a used commodity. She saw her maiden’s dream for an honorable marriage essentially ruined. Shame can be devastating. 

Some cultures employ shaming to preserve the values or ideals of a group. They openly disrespect members who violate protocols and ostracize them from group functions. But shaming can be for specific reasons in an open society. Today, therapists identify different kinds of shaming, including fat-shaming, mommy-shaming, body-shaming, and shaming some—especially young women—for a seductive appearance or behavior, whether real or imagined. A societal push-back against shaming has gathered momentum, but too often the damage has already been done. The effects may be so overwhelming that a person may choose isolation, self-inflicted wounds, or even suicide.

Jesus refused to observe shaming conventions. He fraternized with people whom society considered unworthy, like publicans, sinners, and outcasts. “And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesussat at the table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Himweeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped themwith the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed themwith the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this,he spoke to himself, saying, ‘This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this iswho is touching Him, for she is a sinner’” (Luke 7:37–39, NKJV).Christ’s attitude was best captured, however, by His response to the woman caught in the very act of adultery. “And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more’”(John 8:11, NKJV). 

Many Christians who suffer from shame understand that their sins are forgiven, but the shame question persists. “If Jesus died for my sins, why do I still feel the sense of shame and unworthiness?” Certain egregious sins, like capital crimes, abortion, or deeply hurting a loved one, carry with them repercussions of shame. These feelings may also stem from the transference of the hatred or ridicule of others to oneself, or from continuing to feel pressure from a disapproving parent or significant person in one’s life. Shame is intrinsic to the acknowledgement of guilt. 

It is extremely important to know that the blood sacrifice of Christ not only dealt with the legality of sin, but also with the guiltof sin. “Yet it pleased the Lordto bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lordshall prosper in His hand” (Isaiah 53:10, NKJV). The phrase “an offering for sin” has been interpreted in other places as a guiltoffering. In other words, God interdicted the emotion of sin as well as the fact of sin. Transgressors must appropriate the full power and authority of the blood of Christ to themselves. Jesus endured the shame of the cross precisely to take oursins away and to set us free from guilt and shame. 

If you are having trouble dealing with shame and forgiving yourself, you must resort to the Word of God. The apostle Paul directly addressed this problem in his epistle to the Colossians: “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross”(Colossians 2:13–14, NKJV). This makes the cross of Christ personal to all of us. We must see our sin, our shame, and our guilt crucified with Jesus, and His blood covering all our transgressions. 

Forgiving yourself cannot be completed by willpower, positive mental thinking, or any form of self-help. You must intentionally and purposefully grasp the blood of Jesus, not as a doctrinal creed, but as an actual and personal appropriation. “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your consciencefrom dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:12–14, NKJV, my emphasis.) God does not value you just as a warm body sitting in the stands, but as a unique and treasured soul around whom He can wrap His arms. He considers you worthy of His embrace. “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:11, NKJV).

J. MARK JORDAN

Honorary General Board Member | UPCI