Self Esteem: Not Behavior
Basket of Figs, April, 2004
Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the LORD. --Jeremiah 8:12
She was a young mother in a conference with her child’s teacher in the Christian school. She had never been married, but had produced three children from three different fathers, and was living with another man. She was having money problems because the men were not paying child support. She needed to talk to the teacher because her child was having trouble in school.
The teacher tried to be helpful and understanding. Hoping to encourage her the teacher said, “It is a difficult situation. The Lord is gracious. Sometimes it takes a while for us to work through the effects of sin.” At the word “sin” the young mother lost it.
“My children are not the result of sin. They are beautiful children. I have a wonderful relationship with God, and the Lord knows the need that I have for men in my life.”
This sad story illustrates just one of the spiritual problems that face the church in the United States today. There is no fear of God, no consciousness of sin, and no shame. Of course her children were gifts from God, but her shame was her own.
A number of years ago this writer reproved a young man in class who was behaving very badly. “Sit down,” I said, “and quit acting like an idiot.”
The next day his mother came to see me. “You embarrassed my boy,” she said.
“No,” I said. “He embarrassed himself. I just pointed it out. I didn’t say he was an idiot; I said he was acting like one.” I did then, and I do now, believe that there is such a thing as idiotic behavior that needs to be reproved by those with authority.
The problem is that people do not mind acting foolishly. They just don’t like to have it pointed out. The behavior does not embarrass them. Nowadays, when people are caught in wicked behavior, their response is not to blush and be ashamed, but to tough it out and pretend they have done nothing wrong.
This is especially true of sexual sins. As Solomon wrote centuries ago:
Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness. --Proverbs 30:20
The important thing for the modern is to feel good, to accept himself. By intimidating those who would call us to better behavior, we shut ourselves off from repentance. Even in the highest places in our nation, those who hold high office are not ashamed of the most flagrant transgressions against nature. Do they blush? Of course not! They tough it out and admit no fault and no shame.
But God has not changed. The stiffened neck and the hardened heart and the seared conscience may suffice to face down men, but they will not face down God who resists the proud. “Therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the LORD,” was the decree given by God through the prophet Jeremiah. Men can be bluffed; God cannot.
We do not purchase forgiveness by our repentance, for our forgiveness is the work of Christ on the Cross. But a hard heart is an unforgiven heart, for the love of God is shed into the hearts of those who belong to Christ, according to Romans 5:1,2. God’s forgiveness melts the heart of the sinner, for it is powerful grace.