Our shame makes us hostile with God

Paul understood the wrath of God differently than many Christians typically do. Paul believed that God turned people over to their sin.  As people dabble in it, the gravity of sin lures them to indulge more and more. They become darkened in their understanding.

For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened…Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. (Rom 1:21,24 NET.)

People become trapped in their shame and become caught in a cycle of managing their shame or masking it which leads inevitably to more sin and dysfunction. This of course leads to even more feelings of shame and unworthiness. A hostility towards God develops. People are so consumed by their shame they are incapable of being real, acknowledging the truth of their brokenness they attempt to mask over their pain. John described the same process a little different using the imagery of light and darkness.

The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. Now this is the basis for judging: that the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed. But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God. (Joh 3:18-21 NET.)

People believe that God becomes hostile with them when they sin but really the opposite is true. We become hostile with God. In Christ’s death God made peace between us and Him.

For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. (Eph 2:14-16 NET.)

In this passage Paul is not just talking about our relationship with God but also the relationship between Jews and Gentiles.  Through faith in Christ we can have the confidence to lay aside our hostility with God, knowing that he still loves us despite our sin and that he decided we were worthy of his love.  This is what Paul tried to affirm to the Colossians before someone had a chance to muddy their understanding.

And you were at one time strangers and enemies in your minds as expressed through your evil deeds, but now he has reconciled you  by his physical body through death to present you holy, without blemish, and blameless before him –if indeed you remain in the faith, established and firm, without shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has also been preached in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become its servant. (Col 1:21-23 NET.)

This has to be the message of our churches because it has the power to unravel our hostility towards God by undercutting the shame of our sin.  Our problems start when we move away from the message or start adding to it.  It is so important than the church teach and live out this message.  Reach out in love, accept people despite their sin, sacrifice for them, affirm their worth in your eyes and in God’s.  If we do this, people will be transformed.

It would be irresponsible for me to say that God is comfortable with all our actions, especially those that are incredibly self-destructive or oppressive to others.  Like any other father I would imagine that he does become upset with us.  Like any other loving father his love for us is never extinguished regardless of what we do.  Despite our best efforts to thwart his plans and to run from his grace there is always a way back in grace, acceptance and forgiveness.  The wells of God’s grace are deep and he wants us to confidently return to his grace, to not hide in the shadows, but to embrace his love and be transformed by it.