This weeks sermon and Saturday men’s group discussion revolved around Hebrews 10, and I’m not going to get far into the sermon or anything; instead we went down a few rabbit trails, but some great thoughts come out. Firstly was on the nature of Knowledge and it’s relationship to Sin and Shame. From that I want to discuss the implications of Shame and Guilt on our righteousness and salvation as well as Confession & Forgiveness.
On the Nature of Knowledge and Sin
What allows us to recognize that we have done wrong? The initial answer is obviously Christ’s revelation and our conscience. But how do those come through us? I believe it often comes through knowledge. Christ’s revelations are often amazing learning experiences where our entire mind can be significantly changed. From then on, our knowledge of Good and Evil takes control and our conscience then acts as our guide telling us when we’ve done wrong. Because people’s knowledge differs, so do our conscience’s responses to sin. So, in increasing our knowledge we can increase our sensitivity to righteous and sinful behavior. God imparted a small tidbit of knowledge onto Adam and Eve before the fall: “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Without that knowledge before hand, they wouldn’t have been able to have a choice. God wanted them to freely choose Him and thus had to give them an alternate choice. So sin happened and continues to happen. Luckily God instilled in our human nature a vital response; Shame.
Guilt and Shame
First, a couple definitions:
Noun: The fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime.
Verb: Make (someone) feel guilty, esp. in order to induce them to do something.
Noun: A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
Verb: (of a person, action, or situation) Make (someone) feel ashamed: “I shamed him into giving some away”.
On the nature of guilt and shame, some questions came up about how, since Christ already forgave and forgot our sins, should we really be feeling guilty, shameful about our sins? As well as confessing each and every one? Maybe we should just be accepting of His Grace and move on with life. Christ didn’t judge the woman in adultery, he didn’t want anyone else to judge her, including herself. So yes, we shouldn’t be judgmental on ourselves and feel that our guilt and shame is somehow paying penance for our deeds. I think that’s wrong and self-destructive. It isn’t about paying penance, that has already been done by Christ. Our Guilt and Shame doesn’t come from Christ directly, but from the nature of our God-given humanity. Same as how physical pain doesn’t come from God directly, but from the physical aspect of our God-given humanity. Pain is there to tell you something is wrong, whether by accident or intention. After receiving pain, you then generally realize ‘what’ you have done to cause pain, and you work to rectify the situation and remove pain. Shame is a different form of pain. It is there to tell you that something is wrong and needs to be fixed. Guilt is owning your actions, “yes, I did something wrong” so that then you can go about rectifying the situation and removing shame.
Prior to Christ’s sacrifice, we were unable to fully rectify the wrong and remove shame. Instead, all we could do was cover our shame. Adam and Eve tried Fig Leaves to cover their shame of nakedness. But it was God who put animal skins on them to (slightly more permanent) cover their shame. Christ then came down and became the ultimate sacrifice and removed the need for animal skins and sacrifice, and instead now we are clothed in his Glory.
However, we still have Shame and Guilt with us and I think they are necessary aspects of our humanity. Shame still tells us when we have done wrong, and we still need to understand what we have done and accept the consequences for our actions. This now brings us to Confession and Forgiveness.
Confession and Forgiveness
First off, continual Confession isn’t needed for our salvation. Christ has forgiven us once and for all. Done and done. So why confess? Because Confession allows God to continually work through us and to perfect the good work he has in us. Without Confession, our sins have lasting consequences within our body, mind and spirit. Sin’s consequences stick around without confession; without first realizing that you’ve done wrong (shame), without accepting that we’ve sinned and that we have hurt someone or someone else (guilt); how can you grow? Confess, get it off your chest; you are already forgiven!
Forgiveness is the good news, we no longer have to cover our sins where guilt and shame are burdens. God has lifted those burdens off your back and remade them into tools for righteousness. Sin happens, deal with the consequences and move on. We are forgiven and because I am forgiven I want to allow God to continually work in me to make me more like Christ, more perfect, more righteous. A happier, healthier, wiser individual who people find easy to love, and freely receive love. One who kids enjoy being around. Sinless, and closer to God and Christ than I can ever now currently imagine. To be in a stronger relationship with my family, my wife, my God. Sin is so past tense, Christ is the future.