Have you ever felt really ashamed about something you have said or done?
Whether it was a broken promise, a harsh word, lying to a parent, or cheating on a test, whenever we make bad choices we usually experience feelings of guilt.
Guilt is about something we have done. Guilt is to our soul what pain is to our body — a warning sign that something is wrong.
Shame is different than guilt. Shame is about who we are. Shame twists the truth that I have made a mistake into the lie that I am a mistake.
Now, the story we just read is about a woman who is caught in the act of adultery. She is sleeping with someone she is not married to. Though we are not sure what happened to the man involved, in this story, the woman is singled out and dragged before Jesus by the religious leaders. The religious leaders demand judgment for her sins.
Instead, Jesus gives us a surprising picture of mercy and compassion.
Jesus says to the accusers, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (vs. 7)
One by one the accusers walk away.
This woman likely felt guilt for what she had done. More than that, she probably felt shame - believing lies about who she had become. Yet Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you” (vs. 11). He refuses to condemn her because Jesus knows He is going to the cross to be condemned for her. Jesus will pay for her sins by dying in her place so her shame can be removed and her guilt can be forgiven.
She is free to embrace a new identity as someone who, despite her mistakes, is loved and treasured by God. She is free to “go and sin no more.” (vs 11.)
The same is true for us.
One of the primary hurdles to experiencing the full life that God wants for you is letting what you have done, or the mistakes you have made, define your worth or value.
There is a better option available.
Instead, let what Jesus has done for you take away your guilt, remove your shame, and remind you that you are loved and treasured by God.
Is there anything in your life right now that you feel guilty or ashamed about? Take a moment to bring these things to God and ask for His forgiveness and healing.