Ugh, shame. I shudder when I hear someone verbally *put* shame on someone else. After all, shame is one of the universally worst human experiences: that sinking feeling of being so helplessly awful, unlovable, despicable, and worthless. (It’s also one of the best motivators. Depending upon one’s culture, the avoidance of shame will inspire someone to obey her parents, protect his family, strap on a detonator, fight in a war, or face martyrdom.)
I’ve heard people explain that shame – that vague sense of general worthlessness – is inspired by the devil while conviction – a specific knowledge of a changeable behavior – is inspired by God.
But Adam and Eve felt shame when they sinned and it was actually a part of their redemption. Shame caused them to hide from God and to clothe themselves in fig leaves. In a way, their shame put a tangible name-tag on their desperate condition so that they could – and would – accept God’s forgiveness. When God slay an animal to clothe Adam and Eve, he was kindly addressing their shame — even removing it from them. This, of course, was the symbolic precursor to Jesus, who would clothe believers in His own righteousness and remove our shame forever.
It seems to me that Scripture reveals that shame is an appropriate response to our sinful selves. Actually, it’s the perfect response to falling short of God’s glory. And when we are honest about the helplessness that accompanies our shame, we more readily find relief. (And, the only relief worth mentioning is discovered in Jesus Christ, the person.)
So, perhaps shame is actually a grace from God. When Christians feel shame, we can easily identify that vivid sense of worthlessness as a part of the dominion of darkness and abandon it, resting within Christ’s forgiveness and restoration. But while we’re in this world, those rushes of shame keep us sober — keenly aware of our need for Jesus. They keep us grateful — wondrously relieved at His supernatural ability to remove shame’s heaviest burden. They stir up our compassion — teaching us, as imitators of Jesus, to remove shame from others instead of to put more on.
Psalm 34:5 Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.