I wonder if even one person in all of history has arrived at adulthood without feeling guilt and shame. As humans, we seem to have a continual sense of shame hovering just below the surface of our consciousness. We might even remember the guilty feelings that descended on us when a parent or teacher said, “Shame on you!” Shame is so pervasive that whole societies are built on the concepts of honor and shame. One receives honor if he adheres to the norms; but is shamed if he does not. Feelings of guilt and shame are everywhere. Why is that so? Can I escape from those feelings?
My new book, Escape from the Land of If Only, has a chapter devoted to the subject of Guilt ad Shame. You can ORDER it on Amazon. You can read an overview of my book right here on my website.
The Origin of Guilt and Shame
To answer that question, we have to go back to the very beginning of human existence. Sin, guilt, and shame are the results of Adam and Eve eating fruit from the one tree in the Garden of Eden God told them to leave alone. As soon as they took the first bite, our first parents felt guilty and ashamed. They reacted by diving into the bushes to hide from God (Genesis 3).
Mankind has been hiding from God ever since. Even while we’re hoping he doesn’t notice that we are sinful and full of shame, we yearn for a way to get back into his good graces. We try to please him by keeping rules and thinking good thoughts. We attempt to conform our actions to the norms of society, thinking that might do the trick. But it seems like we fail more often than we succeed. Rather than getting close to God, we find ourselves in an endless cycle of disobedience, guilt and shame, confession, and resolutions to do better. But we just keep messing up. And after every offense, we suffer guilt and shame again. We are helpless and hopeless when it comes to pleasing God.
God’s Plan to Take Away our Guilt and Shame
Realizing our dilemma, God made a plan to remove our guilt and shame. And he worked out his plan throughout history. He established commandments so people would know right from wrong. But when they broke a commandment, they felt guilt and shame. So, God instituted animal sacrifices as a tangible way for them to experience his forgiveness. During the Old Testament period, God instructed his people to offer animal sacrifices to remove their guilt. But the blood of bulls and goats didn’t really cover their sin. We humans need a perfect and effective sacrifice to remove our sinfulness and free us from guilt.
God provided just such a sacrifice by sending his Son to earth in human flesh. As a man, Jesus suffered the same temptations we do. But because he was also God, he was able to resist them (Matthew 4:1-11). That’s why he could be the sacrifice that paid the death penalty we deserve because of our sin. God graciously placed our guilt and shame on Jesus as he died on the cross. He accepted the blood of his Son as the perfect and effective covering we need for our sin, guilt, and shame.
How we Benefit from God’s Plan
God made the plan and gave his Son to die as the perfect and effective sacrifice. So how do we take advantage of his plan? First, we have to agree with God that we have broken his holy standards of behavior. We have all lied, cheated, lusted, and hated, if not in overt actions at least in our minds. Then we must believe that Jesus is the sacrifice God accepts to cover our sins. His death on the cross paid our penalty. So, God can forgive all our past, present, and future sins and failures. He places them on Christ and gives us his perfection. Since Jesus paid our sin debt, we are able to come out from behind the bushes where we have been hiding in guilt and shame. In fact, he allows us into his presence so we can enjoy an intimate relationship with him.
Once God has removed our sins in response to our faith, he sees only the perfection of his Son when he looks at us. He takes away our sin, guilt, and shame and covers us with the goodness of Jesus. He promises to care for us, guide us, and transform us into godly obedient servants in his kingdom. Without Jesus, we are helpless and hopeless to take care of our guilt and shame. But God is ready to remove them and make us new. This is our hope for this life and for eternity.
Here is a link to an article about how to deal with shame biblically. https://unlockingthebible.org/2018/06/four-responses-when-ashamed/
How can I know if I am a christian? Check out this article: Salvation