Shame is defined as a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour. Shame is said to be one the deepest of the “negative emotions,” a feeling we will do almost anything to avoid. Shame is an emotional response to a [perceived] negative situation. Shame goes hand-in-hand with humiliation, and guilt often can provoke shame and humiliation. Franklin Veaux explains – Guilt says, “I did a bad thing.” Shame says, “I am a bad thing.” Guilt attaches to an action: “I shouldn’t have said that.” “I feel bad for that thing I did.” Shame attaches to yourself as a person: “I am a terrible human being.” “I have no worth because of that thing I did.”
Today, many people would admit to feeling shame if they are seen naked. With all of our sophistication, all of our boldness, and all of our so-called adult maturity, nakedness still makes us nervous. Someone shared the following, “The Bible often links nakedness and shame, a connection I never really understood before watching Shindler’s List. It is an urgent need to hide, to protect one’s self. In the movie it was to hide from the insane camp commander taking potshots at the naked prisoners in the open area.”
Adam and Eve only felt ashamed of being naked once their eyes were open and they realised they were naked in front of one another. Their eyes were not shut before the fall, and it was normal for them to be naked. They certainly were smart enough to realize they were not wearing clothes then. But after the fall, a change happened. After sinning, they were very aware of their nakedness. Nakedness was no longer the norm, it became a problem.
An interesting study is to go through the whole scripture and see what the Bible says about nakedness. We see, for example, that in warfare in the Old Testament, if you were to defeat your enemy in war and in battle, the consummate insult to the dignity of your enemy was not strictly to strip him of his arms and of his booty, but to strip him naked, and parade the enemy in chains without any clothes. That was to reduce the enemy to total humiliation. It was the practise of the Romans to crucify people naked. And in all probability, Jesus was crucified naked. Christ was exposed to that kind of humiliation on the cross. He was made a public spectacle before the eyes of those who held him in derision.
In Matthew 10:38, the Lord Jesus makes the point that the cross has its own stigma associated with it, and if anyone really want to follow him, then they have to carry that stigma of that dangerous cross. The cross is a shameful thing and nobody likes to be embarrassed. We have a deeply rooted personal desire not to be embarrassed, not to be ashamed. And so, we tend to hide our true feelings and true devotion from the world. Sometimes, we behave and perform with our lives not for God, but for an audience. Our behaviour when we are in secret may be different from how we behave when we are in the presence of people whose judgement or approval we seek. There is nothing more we protect more carefully than our reputation because there is a very real sense which we do not want people to know what we are really like in secret. We all have doors in our houses and blind in our windows. I’m reminded of the following quote, “Some people build fences to keep people out, and other people build fences to keep people in.” – Fences (2016).
I’ve always felt convicted by those words of that great hymn of William Cowper, “There is a fountain filled with blood.” The hymn writer here was comparing himself to the thief of the cross. I know how sinful I am, and it shames me. But I thank God, I can say with the Apostle Paul that, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief, the foremost, the worst.” – 1 Timothy 1:15. I thank God I can say with Augustus Toplady, “Naked, come to Thee (Jesus) for dress; Helpless, look to Thee (Jesus) for grace”
I thank God I can say with John Newton, “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior… I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am… Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.” I thank God shame is an emotion I will never experience again when I get to heaven. I yearn for that day I’ll be saved to sin no more.
Knowing and experiencing somewhat of the sinful depravity of man makes me all the more ever grateful for the Cross of Christ. Christ is the covering for my sins. He (Jesus) washed all my sins (past, present and future) away. The God who knows me in all of my nakedness loves me. How else could David say, “Search me, O God. Know me, Know my thoughts; know my heart. See if there’s any wicked ways within me. Cleanse me.” – Psalm 139.
“No one of us wants we have ever done or said exposed to the whole world. What we want covered (more than anything else) is our guilt. When we come to God even in our guilt, though he rebukes us, and admonishes us, and corrects us, and chastises us. He never, ever humiliates us. There is a tenderness about His judgement as He seeks to correct us so that we can be comfortable in His presence. The very essence of the gospel is that Jesus has achieved perfect righteousness and holiness which he weaves into a clothe that he offers to give you and to cover you in the presence of God with his righteousness. So that once we are covered by the righteousness of Christ, we can be naked again in the presence of God and not be ashamed. Jesus provides a covering of our nakedness.” – R.C Sproul
Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, You came to my rescue and set me free. You lifted me with your own strength, You carried me. You dealt with all of my enemies, You dealt with all of my shame, You dealt with all of my embarrassment. You were naked so that I would never be. You cloth me in your righteousness. Lord Jesus, thank for taking all of my pain, injury, sickness, shame, guilt and sins upon yourself. If I ever doubt if you care for me, O God, remind me of the Cross. Remind me of your love. Remind me of the beating that you took. Remind of the lashing you endured, and how they placed a crown of thorns deeply into your head. Remind me of how they spit on You, and mocked you… O Jesus! I remember. O Jesus! You were pierced for my transgressions; crushed for my iniquities; upon You was the chastisement that brought me peace, and by Your wounds I am healed. Amen!