You’ve done it again.
You lied about honorariums and tips on your income taxes and two years have passed without a thought, but you just received a notice from the IRS that you are being investigated.
You returned once again to that alluring pornographic website where you fantasize about women and situations other than your wife, but you forgot to clear the cookies in your browser and it popped up when your child turned on the computer.
That heat wave of primal instinct to fight or flee is washing over your body from head to toe and panic is settling into your heart. Everyone is going to know. You are ruined.
Shame is a unique experience, because it often is the resulting feeling of being caught in a sin. Guilt is the conscience of the self condemning the sinner for his actions, but shame is the weight of the burden associated with losing one’s reputation. Shame is not typically a concession to the sinfulness of the action committed but rather the grief of the knowledge that the action is sinful and it is now known to the world that the offender has acted without remorse.
As we mature, we become more crafty in covering our sins. I saw a video floating around the internet this week of a young girl, perhaps five years old, who was telling her mother that a ghost had drawn on the table with a permanent marker. “Call the police” she said, because the culprit needed to be caught. By the time we are adults, we learn to redefine our terms and manipulate the facts so that we can assert that we have had not had sex with someone – meaning natural, vaginal intercourse – but oral sex preformed under the desk of the oval office slips by.
“Be sure that your sin will find you out.”
– Num 32.23
Unfortunately, no matter how crafty we become in manipulation and self-justification, there will come a day when everything will be laid bare. Our sin will find us out. God will judge. Everything.
“For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.”
– Luke 8.17
But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.
– Luke 12.2-3
And shame, while it deals primarily with pride and not the heart of the sin preformed, can be a factor that leads to our repentance and salvation. One day whatever act you are doing right this moment will be made known – shouted from the housetops, as it were, and all who are standing in line for judgment will hear. Now, we might try to appease ourselves to know that everyone will be in the same boat, but the standard is our holy and perfect God. He will not be put to shame.
If your pride is your concern, it will be shattered. But do you know that there is hope?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.
– Ps 130.4
Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
– Is 55.6-7
If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
– 1 John 1.9
Our pride and fear of being shamed can lead us to salvation. As we confess that we know that we have sinned and ask God for His forgiveness of those sins, He puts His Holy Spirit within us who will convict us of sin such that we despise the very act of it. It will no longer be the fear of being caught the drives us, but the hatred for doing that which God forbids because we love Him and want to honor Him.
Test yourself today. Why do you do what you do? Do you keep the rules? And if so, do you keep them for your pride? Or do you keep them because you love God and want to make Him happy? Do you break the rules and cover it up? If so, do you know that one day everything will be brought to light, if not on this earth than at the judgment? There is hope. Come to Jesus while there is still time.