The Ineffectiveness of Shame

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height… The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

When engaging in social issues, we must remember that the above scripture verse is true of the victim and the victimizer. God sees people differently than we see them. We see a “scary black man” and the Lord sees a gentle friend and father. We see a “blue collar white guy” covered in demonic-looking tattoos and the Lord sees a teacher and a mentor to young men.

One thing we learned when we started a nonprofit to fight human trafficking in the Baltimore area was that you can’t create cultural/systemic change with shame. We saw some organizations trying to do just that. But shame creates either defensiveness or hiddenness in the person who needs to hear your message. They will either become more entrenched in defending their sin or just learn how to hide their sin better. Trying to shame people into change is the opposite of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not only that but, practically speaking, shame doesn’t work.

Instead, the message must be delivered with hope. We must see people the way God sees them, past their sin and into who God created them to be. In our case, instead of trying to shame men into not buying sex or pornography, it looked like inviting men to be the protectors and defenders of the vulnerable that God had created them to be. It meant not only raising awareness but raising hope and rejecting shame.

Shame disempowers and debilitates people into inaction. It does this to the very people you need to be active and engaged. If shame is your primary way of trying change the culture of racism, it’s time to find a more effective tactic and one that aligns with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is what is so radically different about the gospel. God looked at Saul (who would become Paul) and instead of just seeing someone who was persecuting the Church, He saw the future apostle who would write most of the New Testament. If Saul the persecutor lived in our culture today, one group would try to shame him into changing and another group would just want to sentence him to life in prison. If it was up to these groups in our country, Saul would have never become Paul.

Whenever one person dehumanizes another, they themselves become dehumanized. Whenever one person degrades another, they themselves become degraded. Both the victim and the victimizer simultaneously get degraded and dehumanized in the same act of injustice. The antidote is seeing the image of God in the victim and calling out the injustice. The antidote also involves seeing the image of God in the victimizer and bringing conviction instead of shame. Conviction is a combination of hard truth mixed with hope and love. Conviction says your actions are wrong but your identity was created for more. It speaks to the heart of who God created a person to be.

True conviction always carries with it hopefulness. This is what allows a person not to retreat into defensiveness or hiddenness. It’s hope and love that help someone face their sin long enough to move into repentance. Shame can never do that.

Jesus, help us to have eyes to see people the way You see them. Help us to see past the sin in a person’s life and into who You created them to be. And move us past shame, Lord. Convict us of our own sin and give us the hopefulness of the gospel, that You are changing us from the inside out through Your Holy Spirit. May we not shame ourselves or others. Instead, Jesus, may we move from conviction into repentance. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Five-fold King

Then the five kings of the Amorites—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon—joined forces. They moved up with all their troops and took up positions against Gibeon and attacked it.

Joshua 10:5

The Amorite king of Jerusalem heard what Joshua and Israel did to Jericho and Ai and that they made a treaty with Gibeon. So he gathered the five Amorite kings together in order to attack the people of Gibeon. Because of the treaty, the people of Gibeon sent word to Joshua and asked him for help. Joshua showed up with the Israelite army and defeated the armies of the five Amorite kings.

Joshua then chased down the five kings and held them in a cave until the fighting was over. Then this happened:

Then Joshua put the kings to death and exposed their bodies on five trees, and they were left hanging on the trees until evening.

At sunset Joshua gave the order and they took them down from the trees and threw them into the cave where they had been hiding. At the mouth of the cave they placed large rocks…

Joshua 10:26-27

Let that scene sink in for a second. Each king was hung on a tree, buried in a cave, and then stones were placed in mouth of the cave. This scene is a foreshadowing of Christ’s death and burial. This is a typology of Jesus. Jesus, the King of Kings, was hung on a tree, buried in a cave/tomb, and had a stone rolled in front of it.

Not only that, but these kings are put to death by Joshua. Jesus’s name in Hebrew was Joshua (Yeshua). This creates a beautiful juxtaposition with what Jesus did for us. Instead of putting to death the five kings, our Joshua (Jesus) became the five kings for us. He was hung on a tree and buried in cave for us.

When the Lord showed me this I was blown away. Then I asked the Lord, “But why five? What do the five kings represent?” The Lord spoke very clearly to me and told me to look at the five sacrifices in Leviticus. When I went back to research this, I was astounded.

The Five Offerings of Leviticus:

1. The Burnt Offering (Leviticus 1): This was the offering that was completely consumed on the fire. None of it would remain to eat. It was an offering that signaled the complete devotion of the person offering it. The purpose of the sacrifice was atonement. Jesus gave all of himself becoming our burnt offering. He made atonement for us and secured our covenant with God.

2. The Grain Offering (Leviticus 2): This was the offering of breads and cakes. It was a voluntary offering just as the burnt offering was. No yeast was allowed in the breads that were offered. Jesus is the Bread of Life, the manna from heaven, offered in our place. He is the unleavened bread–the perfectly sinless sacrifice. Part of the offering was on the altar and the other part was consumed by priests. Likewise, we consume the body of Christ and take Him into ourselves as the Holy Spirit dwells within us.

3. The Fellowship Offering/Peace Offering (Leviticus 3): This offering was either a lamb or goat and it was the fat portion of that animal. These offerings were called fellowship offerings because they were given by those who were at peace with God in order to express their gratitude. This offering was also a voluntary offering. Jesus voluntarily became the offering that made us at peace with God. He is the one who reconnected us to the Father. Romans 5:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”

4. The Sin Offering (Leviticus 4): The sin offering was a offering of the fat portions of an animal in order to cover unintentinal sins or sins committed unconsciously. This offering was mandatory. This offering was meant to address our sin nature, not just particular individual sins. Jesus became our sin offering. Jesus became sin in order to set us free from our sin nature and give us a new, redeemed nature. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

5. The Guilt Offering (Leviticus 5): The guilt offering was meant to make restitution for individual wrongs done. It was mandatory like the sin offering. It was a way to sort of pay God back for the sin committed. Jesus became our guilt offering, taking all of our guilt upon himself and wiping away the guilt in our lives. Hebrews 10:22 says, “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

So the death of these five Amorite kings not only reaches back to Leviticus but reaches forward to foreshadow the ways in which Jesus’s death on the cross would have at least five layers of meaning for us. Jesus became the fivefold King who gave Himself as a fivefold sacrifice. All of this so that we could enter our inheritance, our Promised Land, both now and into eternity. Thank you Jesus!

Overcoming Shame

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. 

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Genesis 3:7-12

Have you ever noticed that humanity swings from shame and guilt about sin to pride and blame about the same sin? We see it start all the way back in the Garden of Eden, and it is still happening today.

Here’s the pattern:

  1. We sin.
  2. We feel guilt about sin. Instead of surrendering to conviction and repentance, shame begins to tell us we are our sin. Shame makes us want to hide.
  3. Then we reach a breaking point with shame and we realize we can’t hide anymore.
  4. Instead of repenting, we pridefully embrace our sin (essentially agreeing with shame that we are our sin) Instead of hiding, we are proud of it. We stop calling it sin. We call it our identity.
  5. We blame others for making us feel ashamed in the first place.

This is the pattern we see with Adam in the Garden. As a pastor I have seen this pattern play out over and over again in every possible sin you can image. Can you see it? Let me give an example. Promiscuity:

  1. We sleep around.
  2. We feel guilt about our sin. But instead of surrendering to conviction and repentance, shame begins to tell us we are our sin. We begin to believe we are promiscuous. That is who we are. Shame makes us want to hide.
  3. Then we reach a breaking point with shame and we realize we can’t hide anymore.
  4. Instead of repenting, we pridefully embrace our sin (essentially agreeing with shame that we are our sin) Instead of hiding, we are proud of it. We stop calling it sin. We call it our identity but with a new name. We call it sexual freedom.
  5. We blame others for making us feel ashamed in the first place. We attack the purity culture and anyone that would disagree with a lifestyle of multiple sexual partners. We call them oppressive and repressive.

We see this same pattern in the LGBTQ community. We see this same pattern with those who battle addiction. I’ve seen men do this when they get caught in infidelity. Over and over again, humanity seems to do the same thing in response to shame.

But the problem is that changing the definition of sin in order to identify with it doesn’t get rid of shame; it partners with shame. Pridefully embracing our sin so as to not feel ashamed anymore is like putting a hard cast over an infected wound. We think we are throwing off the shackles of shame, but really we are just burying it under a thick layer of pride.

You see, shame and pride are both saying the same thing. They are saying, “You are your sin.” Shame calls sin what it really is whereas pride gives sin a new, friendly name. But both declare the same thing, “You are this thing and you will never be anything else.”

This is not how we throw off the shackles of shame! We were never meant to live in shame. We are not our sin! That is not who we are, it is something we’ve done. It is no longer our identity.

To truly get free from shame, we need to repent of our sin and embrace who God says that we are in Christ. We need to hear His words of love and affirmation for us even while we embrace His words of conviction about our sin. When we call sin what it really is, when we name it and reject it as a part of our identity, and when we receive our true identity in Christ, shame has no place to plant its evil roots in our life.

Paul explains it like this:

Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Embracing your sin as your identity will not get rid of shame. It simply covers it with pride. Just as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that,” the same is true of shame. Pride cannot drive out shame; only finding your identity in Christ can do that. Repentance opens us up to receive the perfect love of the Father and hear Him speak to us about who we really are in His eyes.