“Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.”
I Corinthians 15:34
On two occasions, the Bible records that Paul spoke something to shame the members of the Corinthian church. Webster defines shame as “a painful sensation excited by a consciousness of guilt, or of having done something which injures reputation; dishonor or disgrace.” Shame produces an emotional pain brought on by the feeling of guilt. Though shame is almost always perceived in our day as a very negative emotion, in this case, it is both desirable and healthy. Paul wanted the Christians who read these words to feel personal failure and pain because of their negligence, which was sinful. They needed to be ashamed. They needed to feel the pain of shame.
One reason there is so little true repentance in our generation is because of the absence of shame. Society has taught people that they bear no personal responsibility for their choices. There is no connection between their decisions and the sad condition of their lives; and it is not productive to accept blame and thus shame. However, shame has an incredible power to help us improve because we feel pain about where we have been wrong. Paul knew that the church of Corinth probably would not change the way they were unless they were made to feel ashamed of themselves. In their case, the Christians were guilty of neglecting their responsibility to tell others about the Lord Jesus Christ, and the man of God wanted them to take this very seriously.
What about us? Should we be ashamed of ourselves? Paul said, “some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.” They were to be ashamed that there were people in their area of influence that did not have the knowledge of God’s grace and the gift of salvation. It should cause them pain to know that people were destined for hell, and had not heard the Gospel. They had not fulfilled their responsibility, and Paul wanted them to feel the guilt of their neglect. Could the same not be said of us?
God does not want His children to live in continued guilt of forgiven sins, but He does want us to take sin seriously. We need to face the facts when we have failed to be obedient to God. It is good for us to own up to our wrong and feel the shame of being guilty, that we might turn from our sins and be forgiven by God’s grace.