In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve knew God did not want them to eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but when they were tempted, they both disobeyed God. “At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees” Genesis 3:7-8 NLT. After trying to cover up the sin they went on to pass the buck; Adam blaming God (verse 12) and Eve blaming the snake (verse 13). Adam and Eve’s responses to their sin are still doing the rounds today. The root of them all is shame, whether we know it or not.
Whilst we are probably not literally rocking fig leaf fashion, or ducking behind the trees, we may be pursuing perfection to cover up things we are ashamed of, or avoiding intimacy with God or other Christians because we think dwelling in our shame for a certain amount of time means we are really sorry. We can also frame ourselves as the victim and blame circumstances, people, or even God for our sin.
Solution to Shame
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” 1 John 1: 8-10
We must accept this as a fact and not pretend to be perfect. After all “even perfection has its limits, but [God’s] commands have no limit“. Psalm 119:96. This does not mean we should not try to do what is right. In fact, we must put effort into doing what is right because “faith without works is dead“. James 2:17, 26.
We admit we do sin whilst having faith that our sin is covered by the blood of Jesus. When we are aware and focussed on the sacrifice of Jesus, we will not happily keep choosing to do what we know is wrong. Being in close relationship to the One who suffered and gave His life in love for us will cause us to put our energy into doing what is right and pleasing to God, and being committed to changing when we fall short. This is why Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength“. Matthew 22:37-39.
This first step is crucial. If we move on to the next step without coming from a place of believing that Jesus is our righteousness, our clothing that covers us better than fig leaves and animal sacrifices, we will struggle to accept that the contrite (truly sorry) confession of our sin is all that is needed, and we will be unlikely to confess our sin, or be able to accept God’s response.
When we admit that we sin, we do it with the perspective of Isaiah, who said: “I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness”. Isaiah 61:10.
We must tell God what we have done wrong and that we are sorry, asking for God’s help to address the root of the issue and help us to make amends with other parties where possible. Often we know when we have done wrong as soon as we have done it, but sometimes we are in denial, or we truly think we are in the right. Therefore it is a good idea to spend time praying like the Psalmist: “God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares. See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on, and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting way— the path that brings me back to you.” Psalms 139:23-24 TPT. Then, we should listen expectantly for whatever God has to say. A situation or conversation might spring to mind, prompting us to consider our actions and confess the sin accordingly.
When we do this, we should be confident that “He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness“. 1 John 1:9. It is fine if we have to repeat the steps at first because what we hold on to for a long time can leave an imprint after it has gone.
We can also be confident in the knowledge that Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses, as He was tempted in all points yet without sin. So we can ‘come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need‘. Hebrews 4:15-16.