June 7, 2004

No Shame
"The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt 
no shame" (Bereshit / Genesis 2:25).

I have studied the Scriptures for many years. There 
are parts I think I understand and parts that I know I 
don't understand. Then there are those parts that I 
have read many times and that I feel I should 
understand statements that appear on the surface to 
be clear and straitforward and yet they make me tilt 
my head and say, "I don't get it. Why don't I 
understand this?"

The verse I quoted is an example of this. Adam and Eve 
were naked and felt no shame. Maybe it's clear to you, 
but until just the other day, it made me wonder. Why 
would they feel shame? It wasn't wrong to be naked. 
They didn't know any other way. No other creature in 
the world wears clothes. They had not done anything 
wrong, at least not yet. So they were not ashamed. Why 
even mention it? It seems to be that the author of the 
story is making a point here. But what is it?

I would guess that most people at some level 
experience shame in their lives. Some months ago, I 
became aware of shame in myself at a deep level. Yet 
still I did not understand what I was feeling ashamed 
about.

As a follower of Yeshua the Messiah I knew that one of 
the many benefits of knowing him was freedom from 
shame. It was not easy to accept that I was carrying 
something that I thought I should not be struggling 
with. Being able to give a name to what I was feeling 
helped, but it did not autmotically bring to me the 
freedom I needed. Until the other day.

I spent last week teaching a Bible course to people 
from several different nations in the world. One of 
these nations was deeply affected by World War II. I 
was told that their nation still carries the shame of 
what happened. Hearing the word "shame" caught my 
attention, because of what I have already mentioned. I 
desired to gain an understanding as to how the dynamic 
of shame was working among them. Maybe this would help 
me find freedom from shame myself. It did.

I saw how the past moral failures of this people group 
was something over which they felt deep, deep regret. 
Understandably they don't want to define themselves 
according to their past sins. Also understandably they 
would rather see themselves as not having this ugly 
stain in their hsitory. Who would?

There are various ways to deal with wrongs some 
helpful, others not. One of the ways individuals and 
groups deal with the wrongs of the past is to hide 
them. That's shame. Whether we try to forget about the 
past or pretend that the things did not happen, we 
don't want others to see us associated with them in 
any way. So we cover them up. We hide them.

Before they sinned Adam and Eve had no concept of 
right and wrong. They were completely free. They 
literally had nothing to hide, until they disobeyed 
God. Once they sinned, they felt completely exposed. 
They felt their lives were at risk, so they covered 
their bodies and hid. Adam said to God, "I heard you 
in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; 
so I hid" (Bereshit / Genesis 3:10).

One of the tragic things about shame is that it causes 
us to behave in a way that is completely opposite to 
what we actually need to do to find our freedom. 
Because of what God has done for us in Yeshua, we have 
the opportunity to be free from shame. But for that to 
happen we need to expose our wrongs, bringing them out 
into the open where they can be truly dealt with.

One of the reasons we feel shame is that we cannot 
accept that we have actually done what we have done. 
If our shame is a result of the behavior of others, it 
is because we cannot accept that someone we are 
associated with did whatever they did.

Once we allow the shameful acts of the past to be 
properly exposed, God is more than able to remove our 
shame. To come to that place requires radical honesty 
and the willingness to accept God's perspective of our 
lives.