How Does the Bible Address Shame?
What Is Shame?
In his book Shame Interrupted, author Ed Welch has defined shame as:
“The deep sense that you are unacceptable because of something you did, something done to you, or something associated with you. You feel exposed and humiliated. You are disgraced because you acted less than human, you were treated as if you were less than human, or you were associated with something less than human, and there are witnesses. Shame feels like it is always exposed. Shame is not a mirage. It is very real.1
Shame is a sense of feeling worthless, isolated, unclean, disgraced, or defiled. So, how does the gospel address your shame?
Access to the Throne Room
Some time ago, I took my husband backstage to his favorite Christian artist for his fortieth birthday. What a fun night! In order to obtain backstage admittance though, we needed a special guest pass. There were multiple secured access points we had to be permitted through in order to meet the band. Without the special pass, we would not be able to enter.
Good news! According to Hebrews 10:19-25, Christ’s redemptive work on the cross tore the barrier down so believers can approach God in the conscious enjoyment of freedom from guilt and shame. Now, as children of the Most High, we don’t have to go through multiple access points to enter the Throne Room. Neither did we receive a one-time pass to meet our Creator and Savior.
For those who are Christians: We have been given full access to Christ and we can come just as we are every minute of the day. We are no longer worthless, unclean, or rejected. Because of salvation in Jesus, we are fully accepted and belong to Christ for eternity. Christ Jesus cleansed us from our sin—which means we are free from guilt and shame—and bestows favor and honor by giving us a new identity in him.
We read of this incredible truth in 1 Peter, where Peter says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (3:18).
So, where do you go with your shame? When you have full access to God, you must go to him! Believers must continually go to the Throne Room to be reminded of what Christ did on the cross—that he gave up his life to cleanse us of our sins.
Redressed in the Throne Room
When I have a “whiff of shame” from my past sin or suffering or I need cleansing water for ongoing sin, where do I go? I go to Jesus! I go into his presence—confessing ongoing sin, asking Jesus to remind me about my new life in him, and asking him for help from the Holy Spirit to walk in him:
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly”(Psalm 84:11).
When shame comes, believers must hold fast and anchor their souls to God’s truths. To do this, I seek his presence—I go the Throne Room—throughout the day to be reminded of how I am clothed in Christ Jesus. My daily wardrobe has been set and sealed for eternity, and it includes my worth, value, and purpose—duty for this lifetime. Do you know what it doesn’t include? Shame and guilt. Hallelujah!
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:4–5).
Be relentless and drive out those shameful thoughts with God’s word and the power of the Holy Spirit. Go to the Throne Room and ask Jesus to help you. Thank him for the wonderful gift of salvation that is free from guilt and shame.
Therefore, brothers (and sisters), since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful (Heb. 10:19–23).