Genesis 3:14–24 (ESV)
14 The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”
17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—”
23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.
24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
[A short excerpt from last Sunday’s sermon]
“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:7–8)
What is shame for and how do we deal with it?
When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden they became guilty and they also experienced shame.
Someone compared guilt and shame by showing how guilt is falling short of some standard while shame is the feeling that something is wrong with us. We can see that with Adam and Eve. They were guilty when they ate from the forbidden tree. The shame came after that, as they saw something was wrong with them and as they tried to hide. Guilt says, “I did something bad” while shame says, “I am bad.”
Shame is the feeling that something is so wrong with us, the feeling that we don’t belong, and the sense that we can’t be loved or accepted because of what is wrong with us.
This is important because shame is so powerful. In fact, it’s one of the most powerful forces that shapes your life. We don't want the wrong parts of our lives to be exposed. We don't want the feeling of being dirty or unacceptable. We don't like that. It has been shaping us since the very earliest days of our lives.
While I think shame is a God-given response that something is wrong, that does not always mean the shame we experience is always our fault. Sometimes we feel shame for things that are not our fault.
The kind of shame that Adam and Eve felt in Genesis 3 was a direct response to their own sin. We can understand the response. They sewed together fig leaves and hid themselves. While they didn't need to stay in their shame, we can at least understand it. There was a justified shame.
But not all shame is like that. There is a kind of shame that is not from our own sin, but the sin of others. There are other kinds of shame we may feel because we live in a very sinful and evil world. Those things affect us.
There is shame that we may experience when someone does something wrong to us. Victims of sexual abuse might feel this. It isn't their fault they were abused, but they feel a shame which can have a life-long negative effect. It's not their fault that it happened, but they still feel shame.
There is shame we can experience about past decisions we made, but we cannot undo. I think about sexual behaviors or maybe even abortion. Maybe you have lost a lot of money in the past and you are ashamed of it. Maybe you went through bankruptcy or divorce. Our past actions can leave us with a lot of shame. We often want these things to remain hidden.
We can be shamed by others for things we have little control over – like the way we look. We can feel shame over our weight, the way we dress, or our financial situation.
You can be shamed for what you believe. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel" (Romans 1:16). He says it more than once. I think he says it because people told him he was wrong or stupid, or a traitor, or un-Jewish to believe the gospel. People tried to shame him to conformity, but he had had a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ which gave him a bigger identity than their shaming.
And then, there is shame that we may have from our addictions: our gambling, our porn use, our drinking, the way we treat our family, our wasteful spending, or our cursing. I read of one celebrity who realized she drank so much alcohol, she couldn't dress her kids for Halloween. She was so ashamed by it that she got help and has stayed sober for years. There are some things you may be hiding from others, you are ashamed about it, so you hide it. You know it is something you need to do something about it, but you refuse.
Here is the thing with shame, whatever the source of it - our attempt to hide from God, or from others, won't help us with it. There may be places where we really need healing. Our refusal to talk to God about it is actually killing us. Too often the result of abuse is that people hide from God, and they end up hurting themselves. It wasn't their fault. It was a lie and God is a healer. The abuse is not their fault. Hiding in shame just hurts more.
If you are unwilling to bring it out to others, at least start by bringing it out to God. You may not feel safe enough to bring it to others, but you can meet God face to face. Today He calls out to you. Where are you? Come on out. Let me clothe you with my love! Let me show you how you are accepted … loved … and lovable in Christ.
If you want to take some first steps by yourself, I’d suggest picking up one of the booklets in the church hallway, and if you want to speak with someone … speaking with a pastor, elder, or Pam Lopes who assists us with counseling. We also have a ministry called Women’s Connection that builds helping relationships between women.
Maybe you need to stop hiding from God about some past actions or current habits. You are hiding so you don't have to deal with it. Be honest with God. Get the help you need. Listen to the good counsel of others.
And there are those who may be tempted to be ashamed of your faith. You need strength.
In all of these things - there is one who came to cover our shame with His righteousness. He takes away the stains of sins done against us. That is Jesus Christ. He washes our sins away … He is our scapegoat who takes sin far far away … even the sin done to us. He also takes away our sins and unrighteousness now. We can have a fresh start with God, to be a new creation. We can come into the light, knowing that we have acceptance and grace even as we deal with our sin. He covers us with his robes of righteousness.