Shame. What I say, think, and do has cause and effect, benefit and consequence. Somewhere down deep my soul is hardwired to recognize the impact I make on my own life and others’. Shame can be highlighted in relationship to others as they respond to my flaws. This is a relational issue, so I want to identify the relational problems and sort them out. In my best moments I communicate well, leaning in or establishing healthy boundaries to strengthen my resolve to make new choices. Honestly, worse moments end in a private downward spiral.
It all started when…
The origin and nature of shame is the inheritance I never wanted but can’t turn down or dismiss, initially. Shame originates with sin.
Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate [it]; she also gave [some] to her husband, [who was] with her, and he ate [it]. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. Genesis 3:6-7 CSB
When the first couple made in the image of God rebelled, their thoughts, words, and actions missed perfection (the intentional choice was sin). In a moment, they saw it—purity, innocence, and complete transparency before the Father exchanged for nakedness and shame. Their choice changed everything. Their relationship to God was altered. Immediately they were ashamed of their appearance and their decision. Maybe they feared punishment, or they hoped to cover their shame and remain in relationship with the God they loved at the expense of the other. Adam and Eve landed in the blame game. (I’m no different in hoping to avoid blame or shame sometimes.)
The God they loved was loving in spite of their rebellion.
The Lord God made clothing out of skins for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them. Genesis 3:21
He met his people in their shame, removed their flimsy fig leaf solution, and sacrificed animals’ lives (ones He created) to cover their nakedness. There are consequences to sin. Always.
Because God loved them, He refused to allow a second opportunity that could leave all of mankind in an eternal state of sin.
The Lord God said, “Since man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, and also take from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. Genesis 3:22-23
He removed them from Eden.
The damage was done.
The extent of the problem was far worse than a change in relationship and the mind. The result of rebellion against Holy God permeated the mind, body, and soul of all mankind and all of the environment.
I have a friend, Peter, who often says, “Cheer up, you’re worse than you think you are!” And he’s probably right. When I get gut-level honest about my sin, it can be worse than I want to admit. But a very good friend will remind me sin is not a line I cross in what I say, think, or do. It’s woven through every cell of my being—sin and its wages, death, entangles every strand of my DNA.
Where’s the perspective shift?
There has to be one, or it gets depressing.
The big change in my perspective was realizing my emotional-relational response stemming from a misunderstanding of sin. I began to grasp that sin was less about avoiding some line or slaving at a behavior modification program. The solution to all sin and shame was Christ nailed to a cross. Jesus took the punishment I deserved. He died to liberate me and every one of us from sin-wrecked DNA and every wrong choice. His blood paid for (covered) all sin for all people for all time.
Some know, embrace, and celebrate their freedom every day. Some have no idea freedom waits. Some pray a prayer of repentance, ask for eternal security, and continue to strive every moment as if God never hears and nothing changes. They mistakenly believe their efforts add value to the timbers, nails, and Jesus’ blood. But nothing can be added to Christ’s sacrifice; it’s final and enough.
Take that in.
It’s a process…
I am yet to be completely transformed by this truth.
My life with God has been characterized by many ideas. I’ve believed in a “one and done prayer,” but it’s not exactly that. A season was flooded with terrible concern and fear of the lines I hopped like double-dutch ropes. Exhausted and staring at a list of failures (wallowing in shame), I have settled, given up, or stopped caring about knee-jerk responses to circumstances and people. But God is loving and reveals life patterns that don’t break. What do I do when I see them and feel overwhelmed?
Remember the gospel!
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness; by His wounding you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24
A child can grasp it, but we complicate it, or worse, warp the whole thing. There is no “excellent” human flesh or behavior this side of eternity in light of God’s perfection. We have been vandalized by sin to the DNA level. God is holy and can’t be in the presence of anything less, so our sin-ridden condition places us in the best world we could possibly live in (temporarily): this marred universe with residual beauty and blessing. He put us here to wait for the single sacrifice that would be enough—enough for all sin for all people for all time. Mine. Yours. Everybody’s!
It’s simply this:
- Place trust in Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross. Add nothing more.
- Celebrate your new identity and liberated life here and now.
- Because He loved you, let every choice flow out of your love for Him.
- Remember the promise of eternity with the One who spared you.
Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Also through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2
For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— Ephesians 2:8
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