2 Corinthians 7:10

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

Guilt and shame. There’s a huge difference. Guilt is the feeling we get when we’ve done something wrong and we know it. Shame is a feeling that we are fundamentally broken and unworthy. Guilt says I did something bad. Shame says I am bad. Guilt and shame can both lead to changed behavior, but not with the same results.

The message of Christ tells us we’re all sinners in need of God’s saving grace. But this fundamental truth can get twisted into a harmful, shame-based approach to religion and life. Jesus never shamed anyone. In fact he took shame away from those who were most vulnerable – scandalous women, Samaritans, tax collectors, disabled people, etc.

Luke tells us about when Peter first experienced the divine power of Jesus. He fell to his knees and begged Jesus to leave because Peter knew how sinful and unworthy he was. Jesus reassured him and commissioned him to be a “fisher of men.”

Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector who both went to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee, at the top of the religious food chain based on legalism and shame, thanked God he was not a sinner like the tax collector. The tax collector, however, thanked God for having mercy on him – a sinner.

Feeling sorrow for our sinfulness is normal in light of God’s holiness. But we serve a God who takes our sin and shame upon himself, offering us grace, mercy, and forgiveness. He never shames us. He never rubs our mistakes in our faces. The world thinks shame and “cancel culture” will lead to a more equitable place to live. But the kingdom of heaven is based on grace, not shame. Shame only makes things worse for everyone. Only Godly sorrow leads to a truly transformed life.

Neither do I condemn you. Now go and leave your life of sin.

Whoever has been forgiven much loves much.