Friday, October 28

Guilt, Shame and Peace

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him. --Isaiah 53:5

Dr. Laura Schlessinger's current reader response poll/questionnaire asks questions about defining and responding to guilt, shame and embarrassment. Although I'm certain her inquiries are largely sociological and psychological in nature, I couldn't help but formulate my answers based on religious perspective.

I think that guilt is that unsettling feeling that we get in our stomachs that lets us know that we've done something reprehensible. It is the Holy Spirit alerting us to the fact that we have behaved selfishly and disobediently. It is the feeling that makes us cringe to think about what would happen if our spouse, kids, parents or Savior were to walk in on you at that very moment.
Shame is the reasonable and appropriate response to guilt. It is realizing the weight of our misguided action or decision, and knowing that there are unpleasant consequences coming our way that we fully deserve.

Feelings of guilt and shame can be overcome, but not without taking responsibility for our actions. Unfortunately, nothing we could ever do would be enough to remove the guilt of our sins from us. This is only accomplished through the work that Christ has done on the cross. In order for our guilt to be removed from us, Christ had to take in on--all of it. The weight of my sins was on his shoulders as he hung battered and beaten and bleeding on the cross. He was publicly shamed because of me and all of the detestable things that I have ever done. Every lie, every selfish motive, every impure thought I've every had was put on him.

This realization makes me disgusted with myself. However, because I believe that Jesus loved me enough to take on my punishment willingly, I have peace. I have the peace and untold relief that comes from knowing I will never have to stand before God still reeking of my sins.

There are positive aspects to guilt and shame. Without shame, I would not feel compelled to drop to my knees and thank Christ for standing in my stead. Without feelings of guilt, it would be easy for me to think that I can make up my own rules and never have to pay for them. Guilt and shame remind me that there is Someone out there who is far more powerful than I am or ever could be. Without these feelings and their associated emotions, I would never be motivated to seek relief from the pain my selfish ambitions cause. My fallibility forces me to seek after God.

A world without guilt or shame would be a scary place because such a world cannot exist except where there are no moral absolutes. A world without guilt or shame would remove all hope for something better. A world without guilt or shame would be a godless one, and therefore a meaningless or empty one.

For those of us who are Christians, although we may live in what appears to be a godless world, we need to remind ourselves that there is more than meets the eye. There is hope for a future beyond this. We can live with the peace of mind that comes from knowing Christ has conquered all--even guilt and shame.

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2 Comments:

At 2:17 PM, Blogger Broken Messenger said...

It is the Holy Spirit alerting us to the fact that we have behaved selfishly and disobediently. It is the feeling that makes us cringe to think about what would happen if our spouse, kids, parents or Savior were to walk in on you at that very moment.

Amen, as long as we make room for false guilts that I believe the enemy likes to use against us via our past failings. Wonderful post!

Brad

 
At 6:09 PM, Blogger Rick said...

Great posting! A friend of mine was referred to guilt as "the gift that keeps on giving". It is so vital for us to know what to do with guilt, isn't it. Unresolved guilt will destroy a person emotionally, if not physically.
Thanks for your thoughts here!

Rick

 

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