Shame is the unpleasant feeling aroused by the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, or embarrassing. This natural, normal, and necessary feeling is activated by a person’s beliefs. Because this is true, shame is subjective, which means that not all people are ashamed of the same things. Some people are overly sensitive and feel shame when they really should not. Conversely, some have no shame about nearly anything. Truly, the only correct gage for shame is the word of God, for the Scriptures expose that which is shameful according to our Creator. The Bible also tells of those things which are shameful in the eyes of the world but are glorious in the eyes of God.
There are times when people are not ashamed when it appears that they should be. Sometimes this is when people have done something shameful according to God’s word. Sometimes it is when they have done something shameful by the world’s standards. Often a lack of shame is a very bad characteristic, but sometimes it is actually a very good trait and a sign of great character. This may seem contradictory, but a brief look at the Scriptures will clarify the point.
Innocence is one reason for a lack of shame. A good example of this is the innocence of Adam and Eve before their fall into sin. When God created them, "the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:25). At that time, the man and woman knew no sin and were completely innocent. They were like little children who have no sense of modesty about their bodies. It was only after incurring the guilt and the knowledge of sin that the couple became ashamed of their nakedness and their sin. The loss of their innocence led to the sense of shame.
Another reason for lacking shame is that of corruption. The prophet Jeremiah recorded the words of God in judgment of Judah as He marveled at His people’s insensitivity toward their own sin. Notice Jeremiah 8:12:
"‘Were they ashamed because of the abomination they had done? They certainly were not ashamed, and they did not know how to blush; therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time of their punishment they shall be brought down,’ says the LORD.”
Because Judah had become so corrupted in sin, they could not feel shame for the wrong they had done. Without that feeling of a shameful conscience to steer them back to the ways of God, they drifted farther and farther into sin "until there was no remedy” (2Chron. 36:16). Their example stands as a warning for anyone who would dabble in sin lest they too be consumed by it.
One godly cause for lacking shame is that of faith. Notice two statements made the apostle Paul regarding his lack of shame. The first is Romans 1:16 – "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The second is 2Timothy 1:12 – "For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” Why would Paul feel compelled to say that he was not ashamed of the gospel or that he was not ashamed to suffer for the Lord? It was because in the eyes of the world, he should have been ashamed. For any man to be persecuted, beaten, run out of nearly every town he entered, imprisoned, etc., would typically be considered as shameful, but not for Paul. He felt no shame because he believed that the gospel is the power of God for salvation and he trusted in the God whom he believed. For him, no amount of humiliation suffered could shame him into denying His Lord or giving up the Lord’s cause.
Another good cause for a lack of shame is that of love. This was the case for Onesiphorus, who did not abandon Paul when he was imprisoned in Rome. Paul wrote, "The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains” (2Tim. 1:16). Such care and devotion from one Christian to another is a sign of genuine brotherly love, and such love has no shame. This kind of shameless love was demonstrated to us by Christ Himself when He suffered for our salvation. Notice Hebrews 2:11 – "For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Our Lord Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brethren due to His love for us and our common bond in the Father. Likewise, our Father in heaven is not ashamed to be the God of His faithful children, just as He was not ashamed to be the God of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob (Heb. 11:16). All of these examples teach us that there is no shame in love, for love "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1Cor. 13:7).
Shame is never pleasant for anyone, but sometimes it is a necessary part of life. Those who refuse to feel shame are virtually assured of being lost apart from God forever. On the other hand, those who are paralyzed in shame are also in danger, for they are unlikely to ever confess Christ and boldly reject the world as they should. Truly, there are times to be ashamed, and there are times not to be ashamed. May God grant us the wisdom to know the difference and the faith to put our knowledge into practice.
Stacey E. Durham
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