In a traditional interpretation of Genesis 3, the primary emphasis is on the introduction of sin. But as I am always quick to point out, there is more to it than that: there is an emotion associated with this sin.
In the last verse of Genesis 2, the texts highlights that they “were both naked and were not ashamed.” (NRSV). Or as some translations have it, “they felt no shame.” (NIV)
God could have drawn our attention to anything, but draws our attention to something they are not feeling.
And when things unfold in chapter 3, something fundamental shifts—a new feeling is introduced: “the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.”
In a heartbeat, they go from being naked and unashamed to being naked and ashamed.
They have to cover up because shame is this felt sense that ‘there’s something so terribly wrong with me that if you knew it, you wouldn’t want to be with me.’
Every person on earth experiences shame. It is the reason so very few of us are completely vulnerable.
Part of what it means to live into our new identity—to be renewed in knowledge in the image of our creator (Col. 3:10) — is to feel less and less ashamed.
We see it in everyone who has had a radical encounter with the Gospel—they are disarmingly vulnerable because they are minimally ashamed. That’s because shame is the opposite of the Gospel:
Shame says, “You’re uniquely flawed and absolutely do not belong.”
The Gospel says, “Everybody has flaws, including you. But here’s the good news: in Christ, we all belong.”
Shame says, “Not only did you make a mistake, but you are a mistake.”
The Gospel says, “Yes, you’ve made a mistake, and here’s the good news: in Christ, there’s grace to make you whole again.”
Shame says, “You’re not perfect, and consequently, you’re unworthy of love.”
The Gospel says, “You’re not perfect, but here’s the good news: in Christ’s perfection, you’re deeply loved.”
Shame says, “You need to cover up.”
The Gospel says, “You can be honest because here’s the good news: you’ve been redeemed and are now God’s beloved.”
Shame says, “You are sinner beyond hope.”
The Gospel says, “You are sinner, but here’s the good news: you have infinite hope because of Jesus.”
Shame is not a part of God’s original plan. Before the Fall, they experience vulnerability and love. And from that place, they engage in rich relationship and are able to be creative keepers of the garden. If we too want to be creative stewards of all God has given us, we will have to let the Master Gardener prune our shame and fill us, instead, with the life-giving goodness of Christ.
TODAY’s PRAYER: Pray for the pruning of shame so that you might experience the fullness of the Gospel. Pray that you might so reflect the image of Christ that you become the kind of person in whose presence others can feel naked and unashamed. Lord, have mercy.