By Kerwin Holmes, Jr.
I recently read an article from the Christian Post entitled “3 Ways to Beat the Shame of Porn.” It was…an interesting leap in the dark. The article was written for Christians trying to deal with a particular sin problem common in our society, and it addresses the hypocrisy found by the many Christians who actively seek help in the Church for their sins. But does it hurt if I tell you that the main point of the article was vehemently unbiblical, even from its title? Let me explain.
You see, the author centers upon the overwhelming shame that many of us experience in our secret places after we do things we don’t ever want anyone to see. From personal experience we know this to be true. There are those among us who watch pornography and secretly battle with sexual lusts day in and day out. There are others among us battling with greed and entitlement, always having internalized quips to launch at people who do not give us just the right amount of consideration or accolades that we believe we deserve. There are multitudes of sinful thoughts that we have throughout the day that horrify ourselves, and I haven’t even gotten to specifically addressing Christians yet.
But now I do. For Christians, we should never seek a vaccine for the guilt and shame that follow the self-realization of our sins– including the sin of lusting at pornography. That’s right, never. Rather, we should interpret our shame and our guilt as the strongest signs pointing us toward the redemptive hope. Why? Well, quite frankly it’s because the Bible says so.
You see, the Bible never identifies shame as the core problem that we need to address as sin. In fact, its just the opposite. The Bible tells us to avoid sin so that we don’t become ashamed: Romans 10:11, Jeremiah 17:13, Daniel 12:2, Psalm 25:2, 1 Corinthians 6:5-11, 2 Thessalonians 3:14…and so many other passages. So then, even as far as the sin of Adam, shame came because of our sin. Shame is only the symptom of the sickness. Why does shame come with our sin? Well the Bible says that we are made as Adam, in the image of God. We know right from wrong because it is in the nature that God gave us. And whenever God reveals to us more insight about what is right apart from what is wrong, our hearts bear witness that we know His judgment to be true! That is why we feel the guiltiness in our hearts and the shame in our emotions from our sins. It’s because by being human beings made in God’s image we know that we should not behave in sinful manners! This is exactly what the Bible says over and over again and what Paul lays out in Romans 2.
And if you read Romans 2, then you’ll realize that any Christian not willing to confess their sin is also guilty of sin. You see, we are all broken and sinful; the Christian Post article does point that out. But often times when we confess our sins to fellow members of the Church, we encounter people who are too eager to point out the sinfulness of our actions (on top of our shame and guilt) in order to boast about their own moral purity as if somehow they are exempt. I myself have struggled with pornographic addiction in the past as a Christian, and nothing did more damage to my spiritual life than my encounters with Christians so absorbed with exposing my sin to the world that they failed to see me, the brokenhearted and humiliated brother needing the Gospel’s redemption to be preached again in my heart.
Jude calls for us to detest our sins to the point of being vigilant for any trace of immorality in the Church community– and he uses some graphic language to show he’s not kidding. Jude spent his entire short letter reminding us that we are all capable of falling into sin, just like the believers who came before us. Even more, Jude didn’t at all intend to write to us about sinful behavior, yet the love of Christ compelled him to do it after seeing so many of the brothers and sisters in the early Church falling to sinful doctrines and behaviors. And you know what? Jude tells us to be vigilant against sin by keeping ourselves in God’s love. If a believer doesn’t reflect the love God showed on the Cross when they aid us in our struggles (the love that convicts with truth and love and leads to repentance), then they are disobeying God. Don’t seek counsel from persons who are unwilling to practice the love Christ exemplified, in your spiritual walk. Likewise, don’t become like them. We’re Christians: people called to be like Christ, and not like anyone else.
Okay, so the Bible does away with the article’s main point about our God-given shame being something to abhor. The Bible also handles the problem of running into the prideful religious Pharisees in today’s world (they can be from any religion, mind you). But what about the shame and the guilt? Do we just live in it?
The Bible is clear that Jesus endured the Cross and despised the shame that came with it, bearing upon Himself all of our sins and our iniquities. That’s Hebrews Chapter 12, by the way. Saints from the past covenants and modern saints in the all-encompassing New Covenant all look toward the same place where our redemption and ultimate hope were provided. You see, our guilt and shame construct the conveyor belt machine that leads us to God and into true repentance before Him. Our guilt lets us know the reality of our wrongdoing, and our shame allows us to experience a portion of our condemnation’s gravity and our need for Christ’s salvation provided upon the Cross. Only by looking there are we completely relieved of our guilt and shame before the righteousness of God. Christ bore it all upon Himself, our sins and the guilt and shame that come with them, despite Him never having committed a single sin. He bore our shame that justly comes when we commit sins, despising it all the way, so that we won’t live in our shame forever. Our sins died upon the Cross. And ultimately, our shame died as well. Just like the bronze serpent in the Israelite camp, we obtain healing solely by acknowledging God’s full justice and full mercy on display at the Cross. And after our healing, we are empowered by God’s Spirit to go our way and sin no more.
What should we do and where should we look when we experience the guilt and shame caused by our sins?