. . . continued from previous post . . .
The Power of Shame
Shame gets a lot of bad press today, and for good reason. Chronic shame that accepts no comfort and no forgiveness from God when He offers it is a real problem. But shame has positive counterparts. Sometimes shame refers to the painful emotions felt when we are conscious of our guilt—this is internal shame and when it is produced by the Holy Spirit, it is life-transforming. Paul refers to the godly sorrow and grief that produces real repentance: “For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow. . . . Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish the wrongdoer” (2 Corinthians 7:10-11, NLT).
Sometimes shame refers to the humiliation we experience when our darker secrets and character flaws are exposed to others. This is external shame. We need to be careful when we talk about this sort of shame. It becomes abused when it is mixed with the ill intentions of sinful people. To shame someone for the sake of hurting them is itself sinful. To shame someone who has genuinely repented of sin is also wrong. The goal should never be humiliation, but exposing sins to the sinner and exploring the root of that sin.
God sometimes exposes a person’s sin and the shame that follows as a means of drawing them closer. Stories about this abound in the Bible: Nathan’s confrontation of King David (2 Samuel 12); Peter’s confrontation of Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8); Paul’s confrontation of Peter (Galatians 2); the Corinthian Church’s confrontation of the man committing adultery with his step-mother (1 Corinthians 5).
The benefit of Covenant Eyes software is that the users know that they will be brought to account for what they see, and for many the potential future exposure of their sins to others keeps them from peering over the edge of the cliff.
With all this said about shame, there remain two important notes:
1. Sin, especially sexual sin, leads to self-deception.
The sum of our thoughts will make up our attitudes. Our attitudes will influence our actions. Our actions will accumulate into habits. And the sum of our habits will be our character. As we give ourselves more and more to sexual sin, in thought, attitude and action, our understanding is clouded, our hearts become hard. Paul says this so clearly: “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity” (Ephesians 4:17-19, ESV).
At times the Lord shows his mercy to the hard-hearted by exposing their sin through another person and it will bring the sinner to a place of repentance. In this way shame is a built-in defense mechanism that keeps us from destroying ourselves in sinful deception.
2. Shame is often abused.
Covenant Eyes is not without its detractors. The most vocal among them tend to highlight the need to live out purity from the heart and not conform to external pressures. Some see Covenant Eyes as amateurish, heavy-handed, and intrusive. These criticisms have their merit because shame is so often abused. The church can lay heavy guilt trips attempting to conform behavior instead of bringing people to the One who can transform hearts. Let’s face it: it is so easy for the church community to engage in a cultural hiding game. I can convince myself that I am a more dedicated or mature Christian because I can convince others of how little I am sinning. This is not growth. It is self-deception.
Promoting chronic shame in the church is very destructive. It propels the church in the opposite direction of the mutual confession and healing James 5:13-16 talks about.
However, because the Covenant Eyes program is voluntary, the average user desires to be called to account for his/her actions because they understand their weaknesses, their habits, and the deceptive power of lust. He/She sees at the root of their sexual sins a tendency to self-centeredness and they desire to come out of isolation and give others permission to call them to account.
. . . more on this later . . .