It's Not God, It's You
Shame is a funny thing. Most people hold that a little bit of it does us some good. It keeps our feet on the ground and makes sure we are sensitive to the people around us. Most people would also acknowledge that too much shame fosters a sort of spiritual and emotional paralysis, or worse it encourages a downward spiral of the self that results in personal destruction. Today, our poor Job continues to struggle with his afflictions, and now he has to contend with Bildad, a friend we would all frankly loathe to have as our own.
Bildad takes Elihu's "It must be something you did..." argument a step further: God is good, of course and always; and clearly God has chosen to deliver your children, and you from your sin through this judgment. Job should do himself a favor and cease his struggle for meaning and put his energy where it needs to go...into absorbing enough shame and regret for whatever he might have done to upset God, so that God might relent. Perhaps, offers Bildad, God is just too good for the like of you (and me).
That sort of encouragement to free-floating shame is something we all know, and is something we all struggle with in life. It makes us think we could never be worthy of anything, much less the love of a God who creates us and calls us each by name. Instead of forgiveness and reconciliation, that sort of encouraged shame puts hope as far as the east is from the west.
Paul, today anyway, realizes that he has been on the "Bildad Bandwagon" with the Corinthians. He attempts to roll back some of the shaming he has engaged in with that Church. God willing, they will be able to balance a well-deserved regret against the heavy dosing of shame he ladled out over them in the last letter. A good effort, but the challenge now for Paul is to find a way to encourage them in such a way that shame is dispelled while reconciliation is lifted up. The ugly part of using shame as a corrective, though, is that once it is meted out it tends to stick to everything like spilled honey. You can wash it off, but you can't get all of it; and once it is on us it inevitably causes is to worry-even recoil-from knowing God is good, or that we ever might be good enough.
What good is it to us, if God is good, really...because we don't and won't ever deserve it.
Well, the truth is, we don't deserve it. Nothing created really can deserve anything. We are blessed with forgiveness from a God who is willing to pour out ALL of God's self into a willing death in order that we might have life. Job hopes for that, and yet in his existential struggles cannot see it. Paul knows it, and struggles to get that point across. We yearn for it...and yet too often the shame just gets in the way.