The other day, I read Ezekiel 36. In this chapter, God is making it very clear to Israel that he will give back to them their own nation, cleanse them, and give them new hearts for the sake of His name. They had been punished because they had previously defiled their land and the name of God. The heathen around them knew that the children of Israel were God's chosen people, yet they saw their wicked ways. This profaned God's name and God had to deal with it. However, He wanted to bring Israel out of captivity and not completely destroy them in order to glorify His name. The heathen would have to see Israel's restitution and only credit it to the power of God.
Ezekiel 36:31-32 - "Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel."
After God restores them, Israel will look back on their wickedness and hate themselves for it. God does not say, "I have forgiven you, so put away your guilt. What's past is past, so move on. It's OK." No, He tells them to be ashamed. He knows they will lothe themselves and this seems perfectly ok with Him. In their self-lothing, they realize how badly they sinned in the past. They see God's unexplainable grace and mercy in receiving them back to Himself. They resolve not to profane the name of a forgiving God in such a way again.
I realize that we no longer live under the law but under grace. I realize that God will remove our sin as far as the east is from the west. I understand that He cleanses me from all unrighteousness. However, is guilt always of the devil? "God forgave you, so you need to forgive yourself" is the oft-heard counsel. He has forgiven us and cleansed us so that we may go to heaven and live with Him. But, I think we ought to feel shame and lothing for our sinful ways.
There are sins in my past that, to this day, shame me. I have wondered why I still feel the shame and thought it wasn't God's will for me to feel that way since He already forgave me. God was merciful to me for His name's sake. He has forgiven me, but I still feel the shame and I believe that may be God's plan. In my shame, I am humbled by God's grace. I should have been cast away from Him forever, but, instead, He accepted my repentance and sorrow. He took me back into fellowship. This astounds me and this astounds the world.
There have been times that I have treated my husband badly. I've been a jerk. My husband is not one to fight back or retaliate. His best "weapon" is kindness and forgiveness. When I am in a bad mood and short with him, he gives me a hug. He smiles. He apologizes (even if he's not in the wrong). Immediately, I am disarmed. I apologize to him and I know, without a doubt, that he forgives me. But, at the same time, I am ashamed of my behavior. I determine to treat him with the same kindness he shows me.
Is this not how we ought to respond to the forgiveness of God? We should not think, "Oh good! He forgave me and I can forget about everything I ever did wrong." We are amazed by His kindness to us, thus we determine to serve Him and love Him as much as lies within us.
When the shame and self-lothing get to the point where we deem ourselves unfit to serve God, that is a problem - a pride problem, mostly. God wants us to feel the shame, but He wants us to tell others how wretched we were and are but He STILL loves us. Use the shame to glorify God. Yes, to GLORIFY Him. You profaned His name in public, now publicly state how you were wrong and God has shown mercy to you. Lift up His name and the world who knows no such thing will stand in awe.
I am confounded at how I could have gone against my loving Lord. His mercy magnifies my shame. My self-lothing makes me more God-loving. I am forgiven, but I am still ashamed. But, I am grateful for it brings me to my knees in humility and adoration for my Father.