The Difference between Guilt and Shame

His Banner Over Me Is Pursuing Love - Excerpt 12

Living in a world inundated with judgment, frustration, anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, and performance-based acceptance can be painful and wearisome. In Song 1:7, the Shulammite is desperately seeking her great Shepherd’s direction in order to find much-needed nourishment and rest.

Today, we are going to look at two more prevalent fleshly traps as we unpack the maiden’s last question to the One whom her soul loves.

“Tell me, O you whom my soul loves,
Where do you pasture your flock,
Where do you make it lie down at noon?
For why should I be like one who veils herself
Beside the flocks of your companions?”
                                                                      —Song 1:7

 For why should I be like one who veils herself

In the first half of this rhetorical question, the Shulammite is saying, “Does what I’ve done wrong merit hiding behind a veil of guilt and shame for the rest of my life?” A common human response to wrongdoing is to feel guilt and shame and to want to go into hiding. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden of Eden, their eyes were opened to what they had done wrong. They saw their own nakedness (their separation from God’s presence) and immediately covered themselves with fig leaves. For the first time in their lives, they felt the piercing pain of sin’s consequences, specifically guilt and shame (see Genesis 3).

Guilt and shame are so closely related it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. While guilt says, “I feel bad about what I’ve done wrong,” shame goes a step further, saying, “Because I’ve done wrong, I must be a bad person.” Both the guilt and the shame that Adam and Eve experienced when they disobeyed God were valid because their wrongdoing resulted in their separation from Him. Before they sinned, Adam and Eve were in perfect union with God’s life—they were “right with God” because they were joined to Him. When they sinned, they were immediately separated from His life and experienced spiritual death.

Every unbeliever has valid reasons to experience both guilt and shame. Yet for Christ’s bride, there is no biblical basis to experience either in the realm of spiritual accounting. Let’s look at what God says about casting a guilty verdict on a believer in Christ.

The biblical definition for guilt is “to owe a debt.” After absorbing the sin of the world and before taking His last breath, Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Finished means “to bring to a close, to end, to pay.” The moment we believed in (into) Jesus for salvation, we cashed in on His entire payment for our personal sin debt. As a result, we are declared “not guilty” in the eternal spiritual realm. And as for shame, our wrongdoing can never change our forever state of right-being (2 Corinthians 5:21). Believers in Christ are right with God for all time and eternity because of Jesus’ finished work (John 10:28, 2 Tim. 2:13; Heb. 13:5).

Please don’t misinterpret my words as my taking a light view on sin. Christ suffered unspeakable torture on our behalf because of sin. Sin is ugly and can cause massive collateral damage. It is also important to point out that even though Christ has obliterated our guilt as far as the eternal spiritual realm goes, it does not mean we are shielded from the earthly convictions of “guilty” when we wound another person or break the law of the land. Depending on the severity of the sin, we may even have to pay our debt to society by spending time in prison.

Dear reader, I hope you enjoyed today’s excerpt from my soon-to-be-published Bible study, His Banner Over Me Is Pursuing Love. I would love to interact with you concerning its content by asking you a few of questions:

  1. Prior to reading today’s post, did you understand the difference between guilt and shame?
  2. Do you struggle with feelings of guilt and shame?
  3. How will what you’ve learned in today’s post change the way you deal with feelings of guilt and shame in the future?

If you prefer to interact with me through personal email rather than commenting below, you can do so by clicking here.

Until next time,

 

 

 

P.S.  If you enjoyed this post and want to know more about me and the types of content I will be posting, please visit my About Page.

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Kim K. Francis
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