“I know God has forgiven me, but I just can’t forgive myself!“ Often we hear such a lament from someone who has gotten over guilt but can’t get rid of shame.
Guilt, by the way, is about what we have done, but shame attacks who we are–what we imagine ourselves to be because of our sin. Shame degrades our identity and is devastating on every level. The remedy for both guilt before God and shame within ourselves is the same: God’s remedial love and grace. Although we may accept that intellectually or even theologically, remedial grace can be hard to take personally.
Here’s a Scripture that I found helpful in my own spiritual journey: “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34).
Think about that! Since Jesus is not ashamed to intercede for us before God and the angels up in heaven, why should we inflict shame upon ourselves down here on earth?
Both shame and guilt are inappropriate for believers, who have confessed and forsaken their transgressions and have cast themselves upon God’s mercy. In Christ we may rest secure from both shame and guilt. “Come unto Me,” He says, “and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
Since God is the judge of all the earth, we don’t have the right to either forgive ourselves, or to condemn ourselves. That is something only God can do–yet He accepts, not rejects, all those who come to Him through Jesus: “Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself” (Romans 8:33).
With that in mind, we can relieve ourselves of the burden of trying to justify ourselves, or to restore our own honor, or to prove anything about ourselves to anyone. “See what kind of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God–and that is what we are!” ( 1 John 3:1).
Being princes and princesses of the heavenly Father, we have no right either to denigrate ourselves or to deny ourselves that honor. And genuine transformation of character becomes possible when we grasp that. Knowing who we are to God and who God is to us, we are drawn into a closer relationship with Him. In His presence there is fulness of joy, and the joy of the Lord is our strength over shame and guilt–and the sin that is generated by those two evil stimulants.
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