When the Bible describes the condition of Adam and Eve before their choice to sin against their Creator, it says something remarkable about their relationship with one another. Genesis 2:25 records that they were together in complete vulnerability (they were naked) and that they felt no shame. They knew each other intimately and yet were not ashamed in each other’s presence. hen, in Genesis 3, right after Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s commands, they experienced shame. They hid from God and from one another. They covered their nakedness and were no longer being completely transparent before the other.
What is shame? Shame is the humiliation or distress caused by awareness of wrong-doing. It is the dishonor that we feel when we have done something wrong. In other words, before sin entered the world, there was no shame. There was nothing to feel ashamed of. But once disobedience occurred, shame resulted. This is true even today. After we commit a sin, we feel shame. Some feel more shame than others based on the sensitivity of their conscience and their view of God. But at the core, we all experience shame.
You know the feeling and the look of shame. You have had that experience where you couldn’t look someone in the eye because you knew that you had hurt them. You didn’t want them to know who you really were, what you had really done. Why? Because you felt ashamed. You may have experienced that in your relationship with your parents or your spouse or your best friend. You most definitely have felt it in your relationship with God. If you are aware of His perfect holiness and your own moral failings, then you feel unworthy to be in his presence, a sense of shame over the sins in your life, the choices you made that has brought dishonor to His name.
This is not unique to you. Listen to the writer Ezra describe his personal shame in Ezra 9:6. “And I said: My God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face toward You, my God, because our iniquities are higher than our heads and our guilt is as high as the heavens.” In the next verse, he describes the national shame of his people. Verse 7 reads, “Our guilt has been terrible from the days of our fathers until the present. Because of our iniquities we have been handed over, along with our kings and priests, to the surrounding kings, and to the sword, captivity, plundering, and open shame, as it is today.” In other words, Ezra is ashamed of his sin before God, and he is ashamed of the sin of his people before the Lord. Sin leads to shame before God and before others.
What does the cross of Jesus have to do with our shame? Well, Isaiah 53:3 tells us that Jesus took our shame when he hung on the cross – “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him.” Even though Jesus had nothing to be ashamed of, he faced the humiliation and dishonor that we deserved. He felt the dishonor that we should have experienced. Why? So that he could take our shame from us!
In Hebrews 12:2, the Bible says that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him, despising the shame. What does that phrase mean? It means that he even though he endured our shame on the cross, he despised the shame. He didn’t deserve to be humiliated in that way. He deserved honor and yet received dishonor. He deserved praise and adoration and yet received cursing and shame. Why?
2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us what happen transactionally when Jesus died on the cross. “He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Here’s the truth I want you to get in your heart and mind. He endured your shame so that we could receive His righteousness. He took your shame, my friend, so that you could receive His honor. So that you could approach God as your Father and not your enemy. So that you could be freed from condemnation and shame, walking in God’s love. Lift your eyes, child of God. You are His beloved! Jesus took away all of your shame.