A few years ago, I wrote this piece here on Parchment and Pen about how we use condemning statements under the rubric of Christian affection.
I was listening to a Christian broadcast the other morning on the way into school and the topic of the sermon was Christians and alcohol. The preacher took a rather hard stand against alcohol and insisted that the Bible expressly forbids the use of alcohol. While I don’t agree with him, I was intent be gracious to his points as to why. That was until he made the statement at the end of his broadcast that he did not want to condemn any Christian who drinks alcohol BUT (yes you knew there was a but coming, right?) you Christian, should really ask yourself does your use of alcohol really glorify God. If you love God and offer yourself to Him….skreeeeech! My first thought was ‘how is that not condemning’? That person who may have a glass of wine or beer on occasion, and has a conviction regarding this liberty, has now had their Christian devotion challenged.
I find this all too common – shaming to the glory of God. Well, of course it’s not to God’s glory. In fact, I’d take a gander and say it is to our own to show we have the upper moral ground. Shaming happens when you highlight deficiencies and then show the other person how they are not measuring up. It happens on issues of Christian liberty and demonstrating the superiority of doctrinal positions, as I highlighted in the article. Shamed based preaching usually involves some condemning statements to motivate people into doing something because the preacher feels they aren’t doing enough.
Most Christians don’t [insert statement about how people aren’t measuring up]
Then follow it up
If you really loved the Lord, you would….
Is that love? Dr. Anthony Bradley said it well.
Shaming people into doing things “for God” is not love.
— Anthony Bradley (@drantbradley) May 6, 2013
Love does not shame people into compliance or service. Love does not pull out the measuring stick then smack them over the head with it. Love let’s people know that they can’t measure up and points to the One who has. Love encourages that we rest in the completed sacrifice of Christ. Love encourages not condemns.
Let us consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24)
Oh and the good deed? That would be loving neighbor, not productions to satisfy our sense of what we feel somebody ought to be doing for God.
I would venture two suggestions. It is easier for an average preacher to serve a guilt trip than a thoughtfully prepared sermon having labored under the study of the text, historical context, hermeneutical obstacles and original languages.
Another reason (I believe) is that shaming and guilt-tripping do not require a great level of skill and they are popular because they “work”.
The preacher/pastor may have good intentions but he may be getting impatient (i.e. “why is Jenny still wearing these short dresses after attending church for 6 months now?” and “I can still smell nicotine on Brian’s breath after all the bible studies he attended”).
In his eagerness perhaps to see those under his care “getting their act together” he subconsciously tries to fast-track their sanctification and crosses over from a mere affirmer of holiness to the enabler of it, thus falsely assuming the work of the Holy Spirit.
I’ve always seen this as the pastor throwing his flesh into it and calling on his flock to throw their flesh into it. I don’t mean this in a harsh way, as few of us always “keep in step with the Spirit”, but whether in step or out of step, we will sincerely go with what “makes sense” to us.
I knew a pastor who realized that every week, he was serving up another “You are the Church of Laodicia” spanking. Although his frustration was real and he really thought he was trying to lead the church in a good direction, the fact that he expressed it in this way indicated that it was someone else’s gift to move the church on from here.
Great article. Thanks for posting, Lisa.
Great article Lisa. I’m one of those who can do a better job of heaping condemnation on myself than anyone else doing it for me.
But how do we “teach, rebuke, correct and train in righteousness” if we can’t point out what is lacking? And if someone is not being obedient to the things of God, they are not loving God, at least not fully, and loving God is the greatest commandment. And it is not a warm fuzzy feeling. Study that commandment and you’ll find that throughout scripture it is defined as obedience, as seen in 1 John 5:3.
After teaching in the public school system for some years, this can sound a lot like the idea that no kid should fail a class because it might make them feel bad. Shame should not be used as manipulation, but as motivation, I think it has a purpose. Not that we should strive to produce shame in others, but that we should feel ashamed when it’s pointed out that we have fallen short.
When (several occasions) Jesus told the disciples, “You have such little faith” do you think they were ashamed? At least a little?
Dave, don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating for a lack of confrontation. That is what law is for. But there is a difference when pastors shame people into action instead of allowing conviction as the word is preached. Hope that makes sense.
Yeah, I suppose. Is there a difference in addressing things that people have done in the past as opposed to what they are currently doing? I view the past as forgiven, but still something we learn from, while the present is something that can still be changed. But no, I don’t consciously try to shame people.
I do think it’s interesting though, how society has tried to portray shame as always bad. It’s part of the attempt to minimize or dismiss sin as something insignificant, as if to say “Well, you may have done [that] but I’m sure there was some reason, so you shouldn’t feel bad about it.” Shame is seen as diminishing self-worth, and we can’t have that. 😉