The Weight of Shame: April “Tabletalk” – Burk Parsons

The Weight of Shame by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-April 2015On this first Monday of April we are able to introduce a new issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ fine devotional magazine. The April issue has a simple and rare theme: “Shame.”

Editor Burk Parsons introduces this issue with the above-linked article. He has an excellent summary of the place shame has in the Christian’s life and how the gospel of the cross answers to our need. Here is the opening part of his introduction:

Shame—we all feel it, or at least we should. We are all sinful, and our sin brings shame. Although shame has all but disappeared from our culture’s vocabulary and is largely ignored by many in the church, it exists nonetheless and must be recognized and reckoned with.

If we are honest with ourselves, and more importantly, honest with God, we cannot help but admit that we feel shame as a result of our sin. Whether we sin in private or in public—and whether we perhaps even pretend not to have it—shame is undeniably real. We feel shame because God in His grace created all human beings with the capacity to feel shame as a consequence of their sin. John Calvin wrote, “Only those who have learned well to be earnestly dissatisfied with themselves, and to be confounded with shame at their wretchedness truly understand the Christian gospel.” If we have never truly felt the shame of our sin, we have never truly repented of our sin. For it is only when we recognize what wretches we are that we are able to sing “Amazing Grace” and know what a sweet sound it truly is.

There are five other featured articles on this theme, and they are laid out this way:

  • “Why We Feel Shame” – Jeremy Pierre
  • “What Shame Does” – James Coffield
  • “Our Shameless World” – Andrew D. Davis
  • “Tackling Shame” – W.Duncan Rankin
  • “Comfort My People” – Michael Lawrence

You may also wish to check out the interview feature in this issue – it is with Rosaria Butterfield, well-known converted lesbian and now a Reformed Presbyterian pastor’s wife. Her’s is quite an amazing story and testimony to the grace of God in Christ. I plan to reference this later, but you may read the interview here: “An Unlikely Convert.”

For now, here is also an excerpt from the first featured article – the one linked in the list above, by Dr. Jeremy Pierre – also a good read!

Now wait a second. Did I just say that shame is healthy? Yes, but note this very carefully: shame is a healthy part, but not a healthy end of the Christian experience. Shame is not the final conclusion we make about ourselves. It is a painful awareness that keeps us from resting contentedly in our fallen state. It drives us to seek defense from the accusations, a refuge from the threat of judgment, some shred of grace from a merciful Judge.

And only by being pushed will we find that there’s more than a shred of grace. There are reams of it. Reams of white linen to clothe naked people.

This is the Christian gospel, one that Christians proclaim to themselves over and over as they live under the daily burden of being reminded of the remaining darkness within. In this way, God reverses Satan’s use of shame. Satan wants our shame to drive us away from God and into the bushes. God wants our shame to drive us to Himself for clothing.

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