So That He Might Be Ashamed: The Role of Shame in Church Discipline

In a culture that tends to view shame as neither helpful nor productive (Brené Brown, “Shame vs. Guilt,” 2013), Christians have rightly responded in defense of shame (Te-Li Lau, Defending Shame, 2020). Lau correctly asserts that Paul used shame for the sake of the moral formation of his readers, even encouraging the church to disassociate from a brother so that he might be ashamed (2 Thessalonians 3:14). Churches today that follow secular culture and lose their sense of shame will do so to disastrous effects, harming their ability to function as the holy people of God.

I will show how the church today can properly use shame, within biblical boundaries, for the sake of the holiness and sanctification of her members. Shame can be used in several ways: to form Christian values and identity, to form a Christian subculture in the midst of a pagan world, and to strengthen the social cohesion of church members. When properly done, all these facets work together to create healthy, sanctified church communities. This paper will survey uses of shame throughout Scripture to demonstrate how shame is connected to sanctification and to show how Christians can promote holiness and discipline through a proper use of shame.