April “Tabletalk”: What Shame Does – James Coffield

What Shame Does by James Coffield | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-April 2015Last week Monday we began to take a look at the April 2015 issue of “Tabletalk”, with its theme of “shame.”

The second featured article on the subject I found to be rather “dark”, even difficult to read. That is due to the fact that the author (Dr. James Coffield serves as professor and director of counseling at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL) relates “what shame does” by means of a concrete example – a young man who took his life last year in part because of the shame of his sins.

As he explains the power of shame in the human soul, Coffield lays out the evil ways in which we can allow shame to control our attitudes and behavior. These steps are graphic – and realistic (isolation, fear of exposure, self-hate, etc.). While hard to read, it is necessary for us to understand “what shame does”, that is, when it is not handled with the grace and wisdom of God as found in the gospel of Christ.

Do not take this as criticism of Coffield and his article. The devastating power of shame needs to be exposed and addressed – concretely and biblically. For those who know this power of shame, we need to know there is comfort and hope in Christ alone.

Here is part of Coffield’s analysis of shame’s activity in sinners – and the answer that may be found in the gospel. To read the full article, visit the Ligonier link above.

Shame paradoxically gives the shame-based person the illusion of control. It allows us to feel as if we are capable of digging our own cisterns—If the problem is me, I can fix it. I don’t need to be dependent upon God or anyone else. I can fix me. A principle of life is that we only fight battles that we think we can win, and shame allows us to restructure reality and believe that we are the problem and the solution; therefore, we can win. Shame invites a person to carry the weight, and in doing so, provides a false sense of control. The shame-based person is allowed to carry this weight and not trust God or others, ever again. Luke’s story of glory was hijacked by shame, whereas the gospel of Luke tells us of glory burst forth from stories that were initially bathed in shame.

The biblical gospel of Luke includes stories of the disenfranchised: the leper, the paralytic, the infirm woman. Luke’s stories invite his readers to see Christ as the transformer and healer. Luke even begins the grand story of glory in a place that many would consider shameful: a stable with shepherds. God’s great story of glory is teeming with stories of the poor, the ill, the neglected, the scorned, but His presence turns the lowly into the exalted. As believers, our stories will be woven together and end in glory.

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