19 Sep

I’m reading this book at the moment by John Piper called Battling Unbelief. Like any books by John (yeah, him and I, we’re first-name connection), it’s always interesting, challenging and straight to the point. It’s not like I’ve read hundreds of his books – in fact very few – but the little bit I read, I enjoyed.

I heard of this book through a friend of mine who bought it and as I read the back cover, I got intrigued. It explained how to cut the roots of sins that capture us: like anxiety, pride, shame, impatience…wait wait wait. Did I read ‘shame’ ? I would never have put shame as a sin. So even though it was not the order of the book, I dared start at that chapter. Besides, a friend of mine also found it interesting to see ‘shame’ mentioned as a sin. For my own benefit – and maybe to hers, if she reads the post – I’d like to summarize what dear John said. 

We find two kind of shame: well-placed shame and misplaced shame.

  • A misplaced shame is when we feel shame for something that we shouldn’t. For example, something we did or said did not dishonor God, or if it did, we were not responsible for it. There is really no place for shame here, according to biblical standard.
  • A well-placed shame is when we should feel shameful because we brought dishonor to the name of God by our actions or attitudes.

John Piper is making the point that if we want to fight shame at the root, we need to see how it relates to God. Nowadays, a lot of our emotional wellbeing or illbeing is somehow defined by the media, telling us when to feel good about ourselves and when to feel ashamed. If we call ourselves Christians, we need to have a biblical understanding and thinking of those emotions.

We know that as Christians, we cannot be ashamed of Jesus. We cannot be ashamed of his words, or He will be ashamed of us. There is nothing shameful to stand firm on ‘no-premarital sex’, on ‘love your ennemies’ or on ‘give to the needy in secret’. We cannot look to men to define shameful actions, but only to God and the honour of His name. Like Piper says, the ‘criterion for what is well-placed shame and what is misplaced shame is not how foolish or how bad you look to men, but whether you in fact bring honor to God’.

Once we understand the difference between well-placed and misplaced shame, then we can move on. If our actions are  not dishonoring to God, let us not be shameful in the eyes of men when it is not in the eyes of God!

However, when our christian eyes are opened to evil actions that brought dishonor to God, it is right to feel ashamed. There is an appropriate painful feeling of shame because we have disrespected our loving God. Some people struggle with a paralysing emotion, a feeling that will not let them accept the forgiveness of God. Although it is right to feel the shame, it is not right for it to stay there. Piper says that the answer is to ‘battle it at the root – by battling the unbelief that feeds its life”. If this feeling of shame remains and lingers, it is because of a lack of faith in the promises of God. Jesus said to the repentant sinner “Your sins are forgiven”, “Your faith has saved you”. In Christ, we are forgiven and free: free from sin and shame!

I know I did many many (many!) shameful things in my younger years, not knowing Jesus. What a priviledge, what a relief, what a gift to know that I’ve been forgiven and that I don’t have to carry the burden of that shame anymore. What a God we serve…


One Response to “SHAME ON YOU”

  1. Kerry September 29, 2008 at 5:08 pm #

    Yes, John and I go way back too. Ya gotta love his stuff. It’s so true that shame has it’s roots in unbelief. We refuse to believe that God can forgive us and cling on to our guilt and shame instead.

    Yip your shame is sooooooo gone! And mine is too. And my present shame and future shame will be taken care of too. Thanks for the summary of Piper! Clearly I need that book too.

    And here’s a thought…why dont’ you put a link on your page to the EQUIP bookclub to promote it to the Young Adults. I need to do that too…

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