“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
Guilt and shame are our constant companions — guilt for what we have done; shame for what we have become. Guilt usually relates to our actions; shame attaches itself to our character. I feel guilt for an act of sin (violence, anger, lust, deceit, dishonesty). I am ashamed to think of myself as an abuser, a pervert, or a liar.
Guilt and shame join forces and rule our lives. They press on us, accuse us, belittle us, and intimidate us. Just when we think we’ve moved on, they double their efforts to enslave us. As taskmasters, they have no compassion. They set up triggers and buttons within us that do not allow us to forget or be free.
This makes the Apostle Paul’s words at the start of Romans 8 so remarkable and powerful. In light of everything that Christ has done on the Cross, because of all that He did in dying for us, He has eliminated the body of death and no condemnation now remains for us.
Paul will return to the theme later in chapter 8 when he asks, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? Who is the one who condemns?” (Romans 8:33-34) The expected answer in each case is “Nobody. No-one can make the charges stick!”
Certainly Satan accuses and condemns us. We often accuse and condemn ourselves. Even family and former friends might level some charges against us. But if we have decided to trust Christ, and we live to demonstrate that trust, nothing can stick.
Within the University — and a Christian University at that — I’m struck by the load of guilt and shame carried by so many students. Moments of weakness, poor choices, exploitation, abuse, and past failures punctuate their past, while guilt and shame govern their present. Many of them will carry their pain into the future. They’ll marry, have children, and continue to harbor their secrets and their shame. They’ll work hard, build careers, and even serve in churches, without the deep freedom that the Gospel rightly promises. Freedom kidnapped; lives hijacked.
Paul asserts the legitimacy of this freedom; free from guilt, shame, and condemnation. It’s not for the few, but for all. It’s not for the mostly healed, but for the irreparably broken. It’s not for a fleeting moment, but for eternity.
At the start of this new Lenten week, if these taskmasters stand knocking at your day, lay your guilt and shame at the feet of Jesus. Repent of it and leave it with Him. Do not return to reclaim it! Look forward and look up; don’t look back.