Let me use this meme from our ever-growing memes page as a springboard for today’s post.
Have you no shame?
Why would I want any?
I absolutely love that attitude and believe it to be the godly response to an ungodly question. What really is a shame is that we as a society ask such questions and think this way. We’ve equated a portion of the image of God in us (the body) with the feeling caused by our wrongdoing. Allow me to try to explain a bit better…
It sounds a whole lot like the scene way back in Genesis with our first ancestors in Adam and Eve. Shame is not of God. However, it shows up on the scene fairly early in the human narrative. Let’s examine this phenomenon.
God utilized the refrain “it is good” after creating something, but after creating both the male and female form in his image, he says “it is very good” in Genesis 1:31. They are the crowning glory of creation and were so in the unclothed state in which we are born and the same state in which we shall depart this life (see Job 1:21).
Genesis 2:25 states that Adam and Eve were naked and without shame. In fact, shame did not exist at this time, neither did the concept of clothing, or the word “naked” when you think about it.
The crafty serpent convinces both Eve and Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and their eyes were open to a whole new world.
When a child does something strictly forbidden by their parent, what is the first thing they do? They want to hide the evidence, cover up the infraction, bury their face in their hands. Not much has changed.
Adam and Eve miss their regularly scheduled walk with God, so God calls out to them. They are hiding (Gen. 3:8-10). In my “Personal Manifesto of a Christian Naturist” point #11, I maintain that they covered themselves out of fear, not shame. The editor of fig leaf forum argued this point with a critic:
There we have it—right from the mouth of Adam. It wasn’t shame at all.
It was fear. They realized that they were vulnerable, open,
unprotected—and guilty—so they ‘covered’ themselves and hid. They were
attempting to cover and hide themselves from what and whom they feared
(Genesis 2.17; Genesis 3.9-10). I believe Scripture categorically
states within these passages that fear is what was motivating Adam and
Eve after their fall, not shame.
The text could easily have had Adam saying, “I was ashamed because I
was naked, so I hid.” Then my critic would have some ground to stand
on. But it doesn’t say that. The Hebrew word that is translated
“shame” in Genesis 2.25 occurs 114 times in the Old Testament, yet
it’s not used again to indicate shame until Judges 3.25! The text says
that Adam was “afraid.” The Hebrew word translated “afraid” in Genesis
3.10 occurs 192 more times in the Old Testament. Not once is it ever
translated as any word even remotely close to meaning “shame.”
Genesis 3.21 does indeed tell us that God clothed Adam and Eve with
“garments of skin.” Again, my critic seems to insinuate that mankind’s
shame was the motivation behind this action. If we are to rely
strictly upon what is actually revealed by Scripture in our search for
understanding, and not on tradition or presumption or speculation,
then I must conclude that there is no evidence that Adam and Eve were
ever ashamed of their nakedness. Not before the fall. Not after the
fall. Rather, they were fearful because they were naked. Are we then
to assume that God covered them because He was ashamed of their
nakedness? I don’t see how Scripture would support this possibility
either. Only two chapters earlier, in Genesis 1.31, “God saw all that
he had made, and it was very good.” Scripture says “all”—including the
naked man and the naked woman.
Humans are the only creatures that cover up. My dog may hide if he understands that I am displeased with him. My kids? Well, as a parent, I am more pleased by the better response of my kids owning up to their mistakes than hiding or trying to cover it up. There is something about being uncovered and laid bare before the one to whom we must give an account (Hebrews 4:13), because after all, nothing is ever hidden from God’s sight. It’s always better to be open and vulnerable, not just in the outer garments, but also in the inner spirit (which is of great worth in God’s sight – 1 Peter 3:4).
An example is from church history of genuine and complete openness devoid of shame would be in regards to baptism. Dr. Michael Wilson writes: In the first four centuries of the Church many of our Christian forbears found no contradiction whatsoever between nakedness at worship, and holiness. Rather, they found deep theological significance in nakedness at baptismal rites. These were not private occasions. Baptismal candidates found themselves ‘naked in the sight of all, and unashamed,’ as Cyril of Alexandria reminds his flock.1
Our experience at naturist parks and nude beaches is that shame is practically absent. What’s often in its place is an innocent joy. In this regard, it’s really quite different than the public pool or a “textile” beach. This is one of the parts of the lifestyle that I love so much! We can be naked and unashamed and full of joy and life. It’s almost as if it’s the way we were created! In a fallen world, can we restore the innocence of Eden? Jesus says in Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
We hold on to that promise, knowing that we too are being made new. The sins we commit in the body are forgiven and removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Jesus bore our guilt and our shame and nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:14). We can live free in the knowledge and experience of close relationship with the God of Eden, without the need to hide a thing.
Are there verses that equate nakedness with shame? I would say no, but others who only look on the surface, would say yes. However, upon closer examination, taking the verses in context, you will discover that there is always something else at play that is causing the shame other than the simple state of nakedness. (Read this article from nakedandunashamed.org about each of these verses.)
Much can be said on this subject, and semantics do play a part. However, the subtle distinction between fear and shame, hiding from nakedness or because of wrongdoing is an important one. David L. Hatton puts this whole scene from the fall in such beautiful poetic form:
ORIGIN OF BODY SHAME
Dressed up as a serpent in crafty disguise,
A demon attempted, by using his lies,
To blot out the beautiful image that God
Had made of Himself out of hand-woven sod.
As naked as truth from the day of their birth,
And destined by God to be rulers of earth,
Both Adam and Eve were alive by God’s breath,
But Satan used knowledge to put them to death.
The serpentine liar pretended to heal
Their blind faith in God for what’s moral and real.
His trick by that Gnostic fruit opened their eyes,
Remaking their minds independently wise.
“You see for yourself, God left both of you nude!
Your unhidden bodies are shamefully lewd!”
Our first parents listened to what Satan said,
For now their life-bond to the Maker was dead.
The diet of conscience controls how it guides,
Which sins it allows, or what goodness it hides.
So, God found and asked them, with leaves round their waist,
“Who said you were naked? What fruit did you taste?”
Some call it God’s will to keep chewing that fruit,
Embracing its scruples in zealous pursuit,
Maligning His gift of our wonderful skin
By calling the sight of its nudity sin.
But others discover a godlier view,
Rejecting this prudery’s body taboo,
Resisting the porn that is wedded to shame
Passed on from the devil’s original claim.
These temples are sacred, not sordid, unclean.
If you would be holy, don’t call them obscene.
Our hearts can be dirty, or lustful and bad,
But bodies are closest to truth when unclad.
— David L. Hatton, 1/23/2009from Poems Between Birth and Resurrection ©2013 by David L. Hatton (www.pastordavidrn.com)
1 Margaret R Miles, Carnal Knowing – Female Nakedness and Religious Meaning in the Christian West. (Boston: Beacon Press. 1989) p 33