All of us have felt shame. We may have also been the recipients of shaming. One of the glorious blessings of the Christian life is that our faith deals with shame in a healing and redemptive way.
Jesus’ work on the cross eradicates our shame. By turning from our old ways and placing our trust in Christ, we are forgiven, our record wiped clean.
And then, God removes our sins as far as the east is from the west. Gone. No more shame. And, he also provides written proof: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
There it is. No condemnation. None.
So, why can the church be so mean?
We look down on others’ failures. We insist on naming this or that as sin. We point out the sin of others. We damage the very people we’re trying to help. We become one of the worst parts of the problem.
Over forty years ago, I was a pregnant teenager. My boyfriend and I were crazy about one another, so we married and built a life together. When our baby arrived, we were the two happiest people on the planet, even though we were still teenagers.
That child was and still is a treasure. No harm came from having him, only the blessings of his presence, our increased maturity, and the life lessons that formed us into sacrificial people. Our early marriage was also a blessing, even though we were young and naive about marriage and often argued as we tried to grow up.
Finances were hard. Growth was hard. We had jumped the gun, marrying before we were mature. The natural consequences of sacrifice and fulfilling our responsibilities were the best things that could have ever happened to us in that situation. No harm there.
Our campus church was a lifeline for us. People came alongside to help us grow in maturity. Growth is a slow, patience-inducing process. We’re still growing.
Any wounds we experienced were caused by the shaming.
It was then socially acceptable to be unkind to people in our situation. My young husband was mocked at his workplace. I almost didn’t get to walk with my high school class in graduation or to be named its valedictorian. I lost my full-ride scholarship, because we got married. I was refused a job at my state university’s library, because I was pregnant.
The lectures we received did nothing to turn us to God or to promote our growth. The things people took from us because we had sinned only hurt us. The shaming was more spiritually damaging than the act of premarital sex and its natural consequences ever were. For years afterward, we were uncomfortable even telling people our story.
The kind people still stand out, the ones who didn’t shame us, who assumed we would succeed, do well, and grow in our faith. They hoped for and believed the best of us. Their loving and positive attitude was healing.
God’s mercy is irresistible. Because God is a merciful God, no harm came from him. God’s love and the love of these others turned our hearts to God, caused us to grow, and prompted our progress after we were thrust into adulthood.
There should be more voices of kindness, more displays of God’s mercy.
PLEASE, Please, please, can those voices come from the church?There should be more voices of #kindness, more displays of God's mercy. PLEASE, Please, please, can those voices come from the church? Click To Tweet
Can Christians love and support those who are in places of temptation or whose choices have led to sin? Instead of cornering them to lecture them or to condemn, can we instead encourage them to do well? Can we come alongside them as friends and fellow sinners, not as finger waggers?
Can we realize that the voice of love and concern is far more effective than the voice of condemnation? Can we “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11a NIV)?
There is now no condemnation for believers. If a Christian falls, the Lord will lift them up again. Pray for them. Love them. Help them. They will turn back to God. Those who belong to God may fight, but they will surrender. The Holy Spirit is irresistible.
Can we stay out of God’s way, so that they can return to the One whose arms are already open wide? Can our nagging and reprimanding voices not drown out the voice of the Holy Spirit who is already softly nudging and urging within their hearts?
Instead of nagging or shaming, can we pray?
This can be especially hard for mommas and daddies and church members. Can we believe that God has got this, that the Shepherd always goes after the straying sheep, and that even after we’re dead and gone, he’ll still have them safely in his arms?
Staying out of God’s way is hard for human beings, because we like to be right, and we want everyone to know it. We exaggerate our own importance, thinking that our words are necessary.
Let’s park our pride and trust God. Can we do it?
By the grace of God, we can.
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