Clothed In Shame Now Clothed In White

Biblically, shame isn’t where God leaves us.

Shame can be a good thing if it helps us feel how truly terrible sin is. We live in a world with no clear agreement on what is right or wrong, where things considered sins in past generations are preferences in this one. Shame is the appropriate response to standing before God, when we see ourselves rightly before him, and see our sin. To borrow the image of Zechariah 3, we see just how non-white our clothing is next to the ultra-white clothing of God himself.


As a kid I hated being messy.

My longsuffering mother tried her best to joyfully get me to finger paint. Every kid likes finger paint right? Not this kid. I cried like someone was torturing me. I still remember the gross squishy feeling and the horror of looking at my hand covered in paint. How will I ever get this off of me? I thought.

There are a few times in my life where I’ve thought the same thing about my sin. It’s that same feeling of horror, of feeling stained, of looking at myself and thinking How will I ever get this off me?

Even in a world unwilling to acknowledge the reality of sin I’ve found as a pastor that many (perhaps all) people have places in their lives that they deal with a deep shame. Perhaps it was something that they did long ago—something they said that destroyed a relationship, something they did to hurt someone close to them. Perhaps it’s the fear of someone finding out they’ve been divorced, or been to prison, or been an addict. Perhaps it’s an ongoing struggle with sin. Whatever it is we think How will I ever get this off me?

In Zechariah chapter 3 the prophet sees a vision of the high priest standing before the Lord: “Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments” (Zech 3:3). That image connects with me. It’s like a bad dream. You stand before the Lord and the law stipulates that you must be clothed in clothes of purest white, every part of you purified and ready to stand before the presence of God. And yet, when the moment comes you look down to find yourself filthy and gross. A wave of shame and fear washes over you.  

And yet, this is reality. Or rather, it’s nearer reality.

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