Western culture has done a masterful job of normalizing abnormal, unhealthy, and immoral behavior. This, in large degree, is due to the fact that we have sought to remove every ounce of shame from our society. Shame is a feeling of humiliation and embarrassment brought about by wrongdoing. Though our world rejects the notion, Scripture teaches that a feeling of shame and embarrassment can be a good thing because it prompts us to turn away from what is wrong and pursue what is right.
Many of us recall our parents saying, “You should be ashamed of yourself!” whenever we did something wrong. Parents must teach their children that a standard of appropriate behavior exists, and when that standard is violated we should feel a sense of shame. The same principle applies to the will of God. His law is holy and when we violate its precepts, we sin (1 John 3:4). We stand contrary to the will of our Creator, therefore we should feel ashamed (Rom. 1:27).
The feeling of shame and disgrace that accompanies sin serves as a motivating factor to improved behavior. A well-trained conscience (Rom. 2:15) hates the idea of opposing a loving God, and therefore seeks to avoid humiliation. Consider the example of Ezra who cried to God and said, “O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and out guilt has grown up to the heavens” (Ezra 9:6). Ezra’s love for God and hatred of standing in opposition to God forced his humble recognition and confession of sin.
Contrary to culture it is the lack of shame that is problematic. In Jeremiah’s day God’s people “refused to be ashamed” (Jer. 3:3) and therefore their sin increased to the point of God’s rejection. Consider the powerful words of Jeremiah 6:15: “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them they shall be cast down, says the Lord.” Shame is a good thing.