Sin, Shame, and Spiritual Fellowship

Peter writes his first epistle from Rome, likely during the reign of Nero, who persecuted believers. He speaks of the fiery trials his readers are going through. Nero seemed to have a thing for fire, and I wonder if there is a connection. But he writes to believers in modern-day Turkey, not in Rome. Perhaps he is making a connection with them. “You know I’m going through fiery trials here, and I know you are, too.”

One of the things that makes spiritual fellowship difficult is not knowing the trials others are going through. How do you break the ice into such conversation?

I’m more and more convinced that Western culture is no less an “honor” culture than any other. Westerners just deal with shame or honor more under the surface, but it’s still there, affecting things, especially keeping us from opening up to others when we are hurting. This dynamic is more potent because we deny it is there or we just don’t notice it.

As a pastor, I see sin up close and personal in people’s lives. Sin brings shame, and it is important to deal with both sin and shame well. We know we are supposed to repent of sin, but what do we do with lingering shame? Realize this is collateral damage from sin – its public element. We shy away from exposing our faults willingly to others, when that could be of major help to others. We often shift the shame and blame onto convenient scapegoats. Let us instead be willing to suffer reproach when we mess up. Let us be willing to take the hit when we don’t mess up but we get blamed anyway. Reagan had some saying, that it’s amazing how far you can go when you don’t care who gets the credit. I’d say it this way: when you live knowing you’re justified by God in Christ, then blame, shame and credit before men don’t matter as much (I think that’s the point of 1 Cor 4:3).

And this helps us use our trials to grow closer to others, rather than allow our troubles to separate us from others.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 6 Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7 And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation."

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