Christians! Cover Your Shame! (or not…)

Sinfest is an online and print comic strip by Tatsuya Ishida that is often irreverent, though often rather poignant in its observations.  He recently produced this little gem:

So often, the non-Christians are better at pointing out our bad habits than we are, and this is a major one.
How often do we do this?  We know we’re screwed up or we have screwed up, so we try to make up for it by being good.  Mind you, we’re not being good out of love for God or others; we’re doing it in order to somehow cover up our mistakes or internal badness.  No one will notice we’re bad or messed up if we do enough good things or look good enough.  Some of us, I think, are so motivated this way that we do it completely without meaning to or even realizing it anymore.  We live a huge chunk of our lives being good to cover up the badness we feel.

However, this is not the gospel.  This is not Christianity.

What this is is a spiritualized version of sewing fig leaves together in the Garden.  It didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work now.  No amount of being good can cover up the badness in us.  No matter how shamed we are or feel, we don’t need righteous piety to cover it up.  We need the healing of Christ’s cross and love.

Our knee-jerk reaction to so much of our feelings of guilt or shame is to somehow just get rid of it, but while being good can make us feel better, it doesn’t get at the issue.  We’re still twisted up, and the only way to get untwisted is to confess that we’re twisted and open it up to someone who can untangle the mess.

But we also hide from responsibility.  You’ll notice the little holy-dude there blames the problem on the Catholic schoolgirl outfits, but is that really the problem?  He feels guilty, but what moved him there?  The outfits might have been the catalyst, but it’s his own internal constructions that made him feel bad.  Whether or not the sexual thoughts or desires are evil could perhaps be debated, but thoughts of revenge or theft or other more clear cut sins could easily be substituted. The problem is what’s in the heart, not what stirred the heart up, and instead of pointing outward, the call is to turn in and note that we’re twisted up and need a savior.  We must not hide from the responsibility of dealing with our own internal muck.  It may certainly be wise to avoid the catalysts that churned us up while we are working with God to deal with our sin, but the problem is our sin, not our catalysts.

Once again, we need a healer, not acts of piety or scapegoats.  To what extent are our “acts of righteous piety” attempts to make up for how bad we feel?  How much of our pointing to problems in the world are attempts to avoid our own brokenness?  The answer to that, and more, is how much we need a savior/healer.

Instead of covering our shame, may we find ourselves running to our shepherd, who restores us.

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