Genesis two, the second chapter in the Bible, ends with a remarkable line – it says Adam and Eve, the humans God created, were naked and unashamed. One chapter later, shame enters the world when Adam and Eve disobey God, live life on their own terms, and break trust. As the story unfolds, it reveals our human tendency to try and liberate ourselves from shame – Adam and Eve hide and place blame. The entire biblical narrative illustrates that we cannot rescue ourselves from shame. Instead, shame causes us to hurt and even kill other people (think Cain and Abel). We may recognize similar destructive patterns in our own lives – feelings of shame often cause us to gossip and slander, overeat, drink a little too much, or spend more money than we have.
As soon as shame enters the world, God attempts to rescue humanity from it. God approaches Adam and Eve and asks them, “Where are you? Who told you that you were naked? What have you done?” While it may sound like God is acting as a judge in a courtroom inducing them to confess their guilt, imagine instead God is a friend or parent, who is grieved by the implications of their decision, and who graciously allows them to acknowledge their wrongdoing. By extending this opportunity, God offers them a pathway to reconciliation. But they don’t accept responsibility and instead blame others.
Despite Adam and Eve’s (and often our own) reluctance to receive God’s invitation to acknowledge wrongdoing and reconcile, God continues to pursue reconciliation with humanity and takes on human flesh to rescue us from shame. God in the flesh hangs naked on a cross; people mock him and spit on him; thorns and nails pierce his skin; sweat drips down his bloody body. Jesus does not run from shame – he is naked, but he does not hide. On the cross, Jesus steps in, bears, and absorbs the shame that we would displace and desperately try to remove through destructive behaviors.
Whatever shame you carry, whatever labels others have placed on you, God invites you to unburden onto Jesus.
Grace Spencer is the pastor of Reunion Oakville