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Battling Unbelief: Shame

“Though shame has been fashionable as a prevalent diagnosis for emotional dysfunction, its roots are deep in the human condition, and the pain it can bring is real. If we are to live the kind of free and radically loving and holy lives Christ calls us to, we must understand the place of shame and how to fight against its crippling effects” (57). So writes John Piper in his excellent book, Battling Unbelief. So what is shame and how do we fight it?

Piper believes that there are two types of shame. First is “misplaced shame.” This type of shame is not justified…we should not have it! Why? Because that which you feel shameful about is either not dishonoring to God or it is but you didn’t have anything to do with it. For example, we should not be ashamed of the gospel (2 Timothy 1:8), we should not be ashamed about a person who is in jail for the cause of Christ (2 Timothy 1:8), we should not be ashamed of Jesus and his words (Mark 8:38), and we should not be ashamed of suffering for Christ (1 Peter 4:16). Some of these things may be difficult, but they are not a legitimate cause of shame. The reason we feel shame in these situations is that we are more concerned about what other people think rather than what God thinks.

The second type of shame is “well-placed shame.” This type of shame is justified…we should experience it at times! Why? Because we should feel shame when we dishonor God. For example, we should feel shame when we doubt the truths of God’s Word (1 Corinthians 15:34) and we should feel shame when we treat others poorly (1 Corinthians 6:5). To put it simply, when you sin you should feel ashamed!!

So how do we battle shame? We battle shame by trusting in God’s future grace. Specifically, we battle misplaced shame by replacing this shame with confidence in Jesus Christ. We must be confident of who we are in Christ. We must be confident that his power is made perfect in our weakness. We must be confident that “endless glory awaits us in place of ridicule” (68). When we truly trust in God and his future grace, we will not be ashamed of honoring him, even if we look foolish today!

We battle well-placed shame by trusting the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ. Yes, well-placed shame is legitimate. It should hurt a little. But we overcome this by trusting in the shed blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from all our sin and takes away our shame!

Do you feel shame? First, you must ask yourself if the shame is misplaced or well-placed. But second, you must trust in the promises of God (his power and his forgiveness) to release this shame and live in peace and freedom as Christ has called us to live.

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