The human heart is not divided up into watertight compartments, and thus it is possible to make obvious distinctions in how we respond to accusation without making absolute distinctions. That said, people are generally put on the defensive by guilt, shame, or fear. Obviously, more than one can operate at a time, but generally one will be predominent in a person’s life.
On top of that, cultures generally function in terms of one of these predominently. The West is a culture of guilt, the East a culture of shame, and the South is a culture of fear. The North does generally okay because it is cold, and hardly anybody goes up there.
A spirit of accusation knows how to manipulate each disposition. And not surprisingly, points to each condition. When we are condemned, we are guilty. When we do vile things, we are ashamed. And when we are susceptible to judgment, we are afraid of the penalty.
“Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Rom. 5:18).
“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death” (Rom. 6:20-21).
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14-15).
The good news about Jesus brings a shield against each weapon in the devil’s arsenal. Jesus was condemned for sin on the cross, dealing with the guilt (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus suffered shame on the cross, dealing with our humiliation (Heb. 12:2). And Jesus died on the cross, taking the full punishment (John 19:30). Thus it is that faith, hope, and love have a cogent reply to guilt, shame, and fear. Not only is this an apt reply, it is the only apt reply.
This is all good news of a striking nature. But Jesus was not just removing the accusations against a series of disconnected individuals. In His death, He was dismantling the entire system of cultural accusations. And this means that everyone who has received any grace based on His death is called to extend that same kind of grace. Freely we have received, so freely we are to give. We have been forgiven, and so we are forgive.
Because we have been liberated from guilt, shame and fear, so we are to reflect on how we attempt to motivate others. If we look down at our right hand, and see there a cattle prod with the words guilt, shame, or fear in block letters along the side of it, we are to accept it as a gross incongruity, and drop it.
Accusations, by the very nature of the case, are wielded through words. You can see this working in how parents try to keep their kids in line — denunciation works the guilt, scorn works the shame, and threats work the fear.
A world that was able to stay out of anarchic disorder without such accustive manipulations is a world that is largely alien to us. How is that even possible? When we think of future eschatological glories, we ought to think more of this kind of thing, and less about the sorts of innovations that you might have first seen on the Jetsons. When the devil tempted the Lord with the kingdoms of this world, he was able to show Him glory — but it was a glory built on the foundation stones of accusation, vilification, and murder. The Lord turned away from the temptation, and took all those kingdoms away from the strong man, and did it by means of sacrifice.
So it was the intention of Jesus to build His new house up in the midst of the old house. He wanted the ultimate remodel project, rebuilding the House of Accusation from the inside out, turning it into the House of Peace, and to do the whole thing while everybody was still living in it. This means that His workman have to be prepared for two things throughout the course of the process. The first is that we must use different building techniques entirely. It is possible to build without nails. And the second thing we have to get used to is the relentless opposition of the old inhabitants. The Lord’s workers need to be set entirely free from the spirit of accusation, because they will find themselves constantly accused.