“The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” This is the last verse in Genesis chapter two, before the infamous “fall” of Genesis chapter three. They felt no shame.
Shame is a despicable emotion. Shame is not the same as guilt (awareness of wrong-doing), remorse (regret for wrong-doing) or even embarrassment. Shame involves guilt, but goes deeper to inflict personal unworthiness. People who are ashamed seem to be enveloped in a dark cloud. It is hard for them to receive love and hard for them to be confident in any context. Shame debilitates and de-values. It does not help us rise above struggles, but instead pushes us down.
Christ rejected the shame that was associated with death on the cross.1 Paul quotes Isaiah2 in saying that those who trust in the Lord, the precious cornerstone, will never be put to shame. 3
Children, you may have noticed, are like Adam and Even before the fall. They do not feel shame. Have you not seen a one-year-old who is just learning to walk, strut proudly in public with no clothes on whatsoever? Or a little one who escapes from her bath and runs the rounds in front of guests — much to Mommy’s chagrin? In Africa, it is common to see young children taking a bath out in the open sunlight, in full view of all passersby. They don’t even try to hide!
Of course I am not suggesting that we should go back to the Genesis 2 dress code! I am also not suggesting that we should not feel guilt when we do wrong. But there is something very appealing about a shame-free existence. This could be the procedure: when we realize we have sinned, we repent, and receive forgiveness. As the blood of Jesus removes the stain of sin, we are free. End of story. Shame has no place.
Freedom from shame is part of the package of child-like faith. I want to live in that freedom.
1Hebrews 12:2; 2Isaiah 28:16; 3Romans 10:11