Saturday, September 15, 2012

Shame and hiding

Eve and Adam - painting by Phillip Ratner

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 3:1-15

TO CHEW ON: "And they heard the sound of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden." Genesis 3:8

Adam and Eve in sweet companionship with each other and God  (Genesis 2:23-25) is ripped apart by sin. Adam and Eve's eating the fruit of the Knowledge-of-Good-and-Evil tree did a lot more than set them in the direction of death. One thing that happened was an immediate urge to hide.

This urge grew out of guilt and shame.
[guilt: The fact or condition of having committed an offense, especially a willful violation of a legal or moral code,
shame: a painful sense of guilt or degradation caused by consciousness of guilt or of anything degrading, unworthy or immodest...a state or condition of regret, dishonour or disgrace."]

So they went from "naked and unashamed" (Genesis 2:25) to hiding their bodies from each other and hiding themselves from God.

Throughout the Bible we discover a similar urge to hide in the presence of guilt over having committed sin. It was often accompanied by drastic results which impacted more people than just the ones who sinned:
  • Achan took spoil from Jericho, hid it in his tent and as a result 36 men were killed in the battle with Ai before he was discovered. Then he and his family paid the price (Joshua 7).
  • Gehazi, Elisha's servant, tried to hide the fact that he had taken Naaman's gift, offered earlier to his boss. He ended up with leprosy (2 Kings 5:20-27).
  • We smile at the irony of the Israelites secretly building "high places" for idol worship. "High places"! And they thought God couldn't see? (2 Kings 17:9).

David, whose hiding episode included adultery and murder, got it right when he asked, rhetorically in Psalm 139, "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?" and answered, in effect, nowhere (Psalm 139:7-12).

I ask myself, am I keeping secrets from God? One sign that I am may be is a reluctance to meet with Him (just like Adam and Eve). For I have found that when such is the case and we do get together, He invariably puts His finger on my supposed secret.

If we're not sure, we can pray the prayer David prayed at the end of Psalm 139:
"Search me, O God, and know my heart;
         Try me, and know my anxieties;
 And see if there is any wicked way in me,
         And lead me in the way everlasting."

If God exposes concealed sins, Psalm 32:5 is the perfect way to deal with them:
"I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.  Selah  

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to realize the futility of trying to hide things from You. Help me to recognize "secret sins," to acknowledge and confess them, and to deal with any interpersonal fallout. Amen.

MORE: Shame versus guilt
Mark Yarhouse in his book Homosexuality and the Christian, makes a distinction between guilt and shame:
"Guilt is about feeling bad for something you've done. Shame is about feeling bad for who you are" - p. 158.

Keeping that in mind, shame would be the appropriate response to humanity's (and thus our own) reluctance to appear before God caused by Adam and Eve's sin. But through belief in Jesus and His death on the cross, the shame of our inherent sinfulness is no longer necessary (see Revelation 3:18-20).

(From the archives)

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