"Showers of shame are often more frequent than showers of blessing in evangelical churches."
Wade Burleson, our EChurch pastor, recently published a post that we found extremely uplifting, and we wanted to share it with our readers. We agree with Wade's assessment that sometimes church leaders use shame to manipulate their flocks. That should never happen! We hope you will take to heart his encouraging words. We are blessed to be able to feature Wade's grace-filled messages week after week.
Please continue to pray for Dee as she cares for her mother-in-law (who just turned 88), as well as her elderly mother and step-father. She has been such an inspiration to me as she has poured herself into the blog and selflessly devoted so much time to her family members.
The Shame Game vs. Inner Transformation (link)
Those who know me understand my message is one of God's grace through Christ Jesus. I attempt to lead people to freedom that comes from knowing the truth that is in Christ. I believe shame is no motivation for the believer of the Good News. The passive obedience of Christ, His death, forever removes our sin. The active obedience of Christ, His life, forever becomes our righteousness. "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (II Cor. 5:21). The favor of God is forever ours because of His grace to us in His Son.
Christians do what we do in this life because of our joy in knowing Christ. We serve God and others because we are awakened to Christ's sacrificial service for us. We love God and other people because we've been captivated by God's unconditional love for us. We are never motivated to do good because of our shame over sin, but rather, we do good because of the joy that comes from our full and free forgiveness and our radical and real righteousness (e.g. His righteousness) which becomes ours through our faith in Him! (Philippians 3:7-11)
Man of sorrows what a name
for the Son of God, who came
ruined sinners to reclaim:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
in my place condemned He stood,
sealed my pardon with His blood:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!
He bore my sin and my shame. It's gone.
Personal shame is defined as "a belief that I am defective." The struggle of every believer in Christ is coming to the place of living out on earth what is true of him or her in before God. In Christ, we are counted perfectly righteous. That's who we are. The intense struggle Christians face in getting rid of personal shame is only enhanced when Christian leaders use language that is designed to convey Christians are defective. Showers of shame are often more frequent than showers of blessing in evangelical churches.
Again, I'm convinced there's no room for shame after coming to faith in Christ. The Good News changes the dynamics of who I am and what I've done. The testimony of every believer should go something like this: I realize I was defective, but grace changed my perspective, and now I see God's eternal objective.
God takes me, a shame-filled sinner, and radically transforms me into a grace-filled son. There is no longer any place for regret in my life, nor is there any room for shame in Christ. God is "at work" transforming me into the image of His Son and working all things for my good (see I1 Cor. 3:18 and Romans 8:28)
But there are two verses that seemingly go against this teaching that "shame" (e.g. grief over who I am) and "regret" (e.g. sorrow over what I've done) are gone in Christ. In the Corinthian church there were Christians suing other Christians over "everyday matters" and standing before civil judges who had no relationship with Christ. Paul writes:
"I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren?" (I Corinthians 6:5)
In I Corinthians 15:34 the Apostle Paul seems to say something similar:
"Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame."
These are the only two verses in the entire New Testament that use this particular Greek word translated "shame". What does Paul mean by these two verses? Are Christians supposed to "feel bad about themselves" and shrink back into a state of self-condemnation and shame because of what we have done?
No, not at all.
The word wrongly translated "shame" in I Corinthians 6:5 and I Corinthians 15:34 is the Greek word entrope, which means “a turning in upon oneself" or literally en – "inner" trope – "transformation." Paul is writing for "the inner transformation" of these Corinthian Christians, not their "shame."
A 19th century physicist coined the English word entropy – taken directly from this biblical Greek word – to describe "transformation energy between two states." Using the better and more literal English translation for the Greek word entrope, let's look again at the two places this word is used in the New Testament:
"I say this for your inner transformation. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren?" (I Corinthians 6:5)
"Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this for your inner transformation." (I Corinthians 15:4).
Why did the King James Translators use the word "shame?" Why do most modern Bible translations follow the same pattern?
I don't know. There are other Greek words used in the New Testament that are properly translated shame, but they are never used to describe how a Christian ought to feel about himself!
“Do not be ashamed (Gk. epaisxynomai) about the testimony of the Lord or my chains as a prisoner, but share in the suffering for the gospel by the power of God.” (II Timothy 1:8).
Effective, grace-filled leadership in churches and families will always seek to persuade Christians to "turn within" and see the "transformational power" of Jesus Christ at work within our hearts and lives. "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). "The Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you" (Romans 8:11).
If you start getting flustered with your circumstances, and if you feel compelled to take matters into your own hands to try to control the people and/or circumstances around you, take a deep breath and look within to the "inner transformation" that is happening by the power of God's grace.
God is at work in you. If the King of Kings and Lord of Creation has chosen to take up His residence within you and to transfer the same power that raised Christ from the dead into you (entrope), then you need to simply "turn within and see His power" and re-think what you are doing. You have the power to love others when their unlovely. You have the power to forgive others when they are unforgiving. You have the power to be at peace when all around you is war. You have the power of Christ in you.
Thinking about who you are by the grace of God, and the transformational energy inside you is enough motivation to be different than the world.