June 7, 2004
"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
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
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