To be able to shame someone is a very powerful weapon. It puts the other person in a state of shock. And, if the shame is public, they freeze up.
To do this to a fellow Christian, even with the best of intentions, is not acceptable. We use various methods at different times to shame others, from a dirty look, to publicly singling them out. Often the reason we do this is to change their behavior.
As I said in the previous chapter, we do not have the right to obligate anyone to do anything, ever. God Himself does not obligate us against our will. He respects our free will even while knowing the consequences of our actions. How can we then not respect free will in others?
According to the rules — and God made the rules — every person has the right to make mistakes, to do things wrong and to sin. Many times, with good intentions and with the desire to help others avoid major mistakes, we interfere with their free will. We may get the response we want, but violating other people’s free will produces, in the long run, rebellion, resentment and even repulsion on the other person’s part for feeling manipulated.
Jesus died to take away our shame. All through His ministry He wanted to dignify sinners, shameful women, lepers and all the outcasts. He did it with me, too. We should never fight against the redemptive work of Jesus, redemptive in every area of our lives.
Rebuke, done right, has it place, but the rules are very clear. Those who are spiritual have to restore someone who has fallen with a humble and meek spirit, recognizing that they, too, can be tempted in the same way.1 You must not attack the person but rather come alongside them to help them see the damage that they are doing to themselves with their behavior or attitude. The Bible is clear that the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.2
These articles about the weapons of legalism are written hoping that you and I can avoid using them against others. I don’t ever want to use them again to manipulate anyone for the rest of my life.
Having said that, I want to comment on how we can avoid being shamed by people who want to “help” us with our behavior or attitude.
Paul asks some rhetorical questions. Am I looking to please men or to please God? He affirms that if he were still a man-pleaser, he would not have been a servant of Christ.3
The thing that makes shame so powerful is our very natural desire to please others. Paul knew what God wanted for his life and so could avoid all kinds of attempts to divert him from God’s plan, even in the form of a true prophesy telling him that he would be taken prisoner if he went to Jerusalem. He knew what God wanted and that was enough for him.
John talks about people that love the praise of men more than the praise of God.5 A stunning verse is John 5:44 which asks us how can we believe who receive honor from each other and don’t seek the honor that comes only from God?
If we know who we are in God and we know His will for our lives, we can be strong, sure and calm, much less apt to shaming or being shamed.
1- Galatians 6:1 2- James 1:20 3- Galatians 1:10 4- Acts 21:10-14 5- John 12:43