The Solution for Shame

If you’re not a fan of Masterpiece Mystery’s period dramas, bear with me. I have a point, I promise.

The central character of the murder mystery Grantchester, Sidney Chambers, is a vicar in an English village. He has an assistant vicar named Leonard Finch, who experiences same-sex attraction. Both men struggle with their sexual temptations.

Leonard knows his attraction to men is wrong, and he resists it for a long time. He attempts to be faithful to what the church teaches. He feels the conviction of his fallen nature. What he doesn’t apprehend is forgiveness. When the struggle becomes too much for Leonard, he cries out that his sin makes him vile and undeserving of love. He feels tremendous shame. But the solution others encourage him toward is to accept his same-sex attraction and pursue a relationship with a man he’s met. Sidney also submits to his sexual temptation with the love of his life, and he also feels guilty. Sidney’s homily that Sunday is about the virtue of love and how love justifies what is pursued in its name. Clearly the solution to both men’s shame and guilt for sin is to justify it.

The law did its work in both men—it convicted them of sin. What was missing was grace. Leonard’s cry was tragic because he felt the weight of the law but didn’t see mercy and grace as the solution. Instead both men dealt with their guilt by justifying their sin.

The solution to sin in Grantchester and in today’s culture is to celebrate it. People cope with the weight of sin by claiming it’s good. They bury their guilt by approving it in themselves and others. By denying sin, they attempt to take away its sting.

The solution for shame is forgiveness not celebration. The message of the Bible isn’t that we’re vile. It’s that we’re loved more than we could ever imagine. And that love moved Jesus to deal with our sin in the only way that can ease our shame and guilt—forgiveness. We can’t solve our sin, only Jesus can.

Deep down underneath the celebration of sin, people struggle with shame and guilt. We know that because they’re fallen human beings. We know that because there is no complete and final solution for sin apart from God’s grace. Deep down—very deep down—every human being knows the truth: They’re guilty. They know that because they’re created in God’s image and have the law written on their hearts.

Many people think Christianity is about the law, following rules, and feeling guilty. What sinners unfortunately often don’t apprehend is grace. They miss the wonder and beauty of God’s unmerited forgiveness that reconciles us to Him.

What guilty people need to know is the Gospel of grace, mercy, and reconciliation. They are loved more than they can imagine. They are loved so much that Jesus, God Himself, suffered the punishment of our sin to offer us His righteousness.

Modern people have buried the conviction of their consciences so deep that they celebrate sin. As ambassadors for Christ, we need to help them understand the only solution for sin is the mercy and grace God offers because He loves us.

Melinda Penner