By Paul Gilbert
Have you ever experienced crippling, burning shame? I'm talking the kind of shame that makes you want to hide. The kind of shame that makes you feel like the lowest of low. Crushing, overwhelming shame.
If so, you're not alone. The Apostle Peter experienced intense shame as well. After Peter vehemently denied ever knowing Jesus, Peter and Jesus caught a glimpse of each other as Jesus was being led away by the Roman guards. In that moment, shame hit Peter like a freight train. He was absolutely horrified over what he had done and he fled, gripped by overwhelming sorrow.
Peter knew shame. It was his close companion for some time.
But Peter knew something else as well.
He knew forgiveness. He knew grace. He knew mercy. That's what we see in John 21 when Jesus appeared to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. When Peter realized that it was Jesus standing on the shore, he leapt out of the boat and swam to shore as fast as he possibly could. He desperately wanted to be with Jesus.
This is NOT the behavior of a man gripped by shame.
Something else had taken hold of Peter.
So what changed?
Jesus showed up.
And when Jesus showed up, Peter realized that he had been forgiven. That Jesus was showing him mercy. That Jesus was extending the hand of grace to him. This set him free from the shame that lay so heavily upon him.
Forgiveness is the great antidote to shame.
If you experience shame because of your past sins, let me encourage you to take the same antidote that Peter did. All of your sins, even your darkest, most shameful ones, have been forgiven through the blood of Jesus. In Romans 8 it says that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. If you are in Christ Jesus, then there is no shame or condemnation left for you. Jesus took your shame upon the cross and invites you to receive forgiveness and grace instead.
Don't live in shame. Don't let the dark specter of shame haunt you for the rest of your life. If Peter could be set free from shame, so can you.