Sometimes forgiveness isn’t enough.
You are forgiven through what Jesus did. There is no condemnation. That’s certainly good news. But then you walk out of the courtroom and feel just as disgusting as when you entered. Why do you still feel like hiding? You are a child of God. That should make you feel better, but it doesn’t, at least not for very long. If you could invent an effective treatment it might be this: don’t exist. Just disappear. Then no one would see you – not God, not anyone else.
It’s called shame and you can find it in every culture and every church. Once I asked a group of one hundred people – and these were all respected religious leaders – if they struggled with shame, and not just a struggle with a stray accusing thought but a struggle with near-debilitating, daily shame.
Everyone raised a hand.
Not that there is any comfort in knowing that everyone else struggles with shame. All its prisoners are in solitary confinement. Yet there might be a speck of good news in the sheer numbers. If so many people have a similar experience, then maybe there is a treatment. If your doctor says, “Wow, I have never seen this before,” you have reason to worry. But if he or she says, “Yes, I know exactly what this is. I see it everyday,” then hope rises.
And hope has good reason to rise. It just so happens that Scripture identifies shame as the human problem, and God specialises in compassion for its pain and promises for its cure.
When we meet together next month in London, we will examine shame because it is neglected in our pastoral care and God’s words to the outcast are exquisite and should not be missed. But we will aim to do even more. In a relaxed setting, with like-minded brothers and sisters, we hope to be personally encouraged, grow in pastoral and counselling skill, and consider how the church can be recognised as a place of hope for the hopeless.
Ed Welch of CCEF is the main speaker at No Shame? on Saturday 14th March at All Souls Church, Langham Place.