Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sin and shame part 1: Why are you hiding?

For years, I believed that sin caused a separation between God and me. I was taught that God is righteous and holy and can’t bear to look on sin so when I sin, he turns away from me. In order to be restored to a right relationship with him, I had to repent and ask for his forgiveness. Then, I could live in his forgiveness until the next time I sinned and then the process began again.

Recently, my understanding of this has changed. In the garden, after Adam and Eve had sinned by eating the fruit God had told them not to eat, he didn’t turn away from them. Instead, he came looking for them as he had always done. However, now instead of greeting him, they hid from him. When they didn’t immediately come to him, he called out to them and they finally responded. They told him that they had hidden because they were naked. Shame because of their naked condition had caused them to hide from God.

This story and many others show us that God never turns away from us even when we sin. However, because of shame, we turn away from him. So, it’s obvious that shame, not sin is what causes this separation.

In the story of the loving father and his prodigal son, the father saw his son coming home when he was a long way off. He didn’t wait for his son to come to him and ask his forgiveness. Instead, before the boy could say a word, he ran to him, hugged him and kissed him. He immediately restored him fully as a son with all of the rights and privileges of a son because, in his eyes, there had never been a separation. The separation only existed in his son’s heart.

Jesus also told a story about a shepherd who left his 99 sheep to look for one lost sheep. He didn't wait for the sheep to come to him with its head hanging down in shame. Instead, he went looking for it until he found it. Then, he joyfully put it on his shoulders and carried it home.

Religion has taught us that because of his holiness, fellowship with God is broken until we've repented. This tradition has caused a lot of insecurity and fear because we're never quite sure if we've offended him. We've been told that we're out from under his umbrella of protection until we repent. So, if we don't quickly repent, all sorts of terrible things can happen to us and our family.

This picture of an easily offended God is in my opinion despicable. The description of love given by the apostle Paul says that love is not easily angered and it keeps no record of wrongs. In other words, love is not easily offended. Since God is love, then it stands to reason that he's not easily offended either.


Sue said...

Hi Aida,

I think this whole way of thinking has caused no end of grief, compounded shame, even caused mental illness. How awful for God to watch his children turning away from him because some of his other kids have not believed big enough beliefs abut the kindness of God. It's pretty heartbreaking stuff.

I have been pondering this morning about Jesus hanging naked on a cross, exposing himself to the world, naked before everybody, despising the shame.

God is wonderful and just happens to be what we need, which is pretty handy :)

Mishi said...

Right on! The Spirit has been testifying to me this same truth. Religion always takes the Truth of God and distorts it to gain control over us and keep us afraid of the only One who has ever loved us. I remember being taught that God was angry with us in the garden so He put the two angels with the flaming swords so that we could not be in the garden anymore. This was done in His anger and disgust with us. But that is a LIE! He actually put the angels there to keep us safe till He could provide a Way to the Tree of Life. It was love for us that motivated Him to do that...not anger. He didn't want us be be trapped in our shame and sin forever doubting Him. In Christ we are free from all of that but religion wants to put us right back into shame and doubt. I am so happy to be FREE!

sparrow girl said...

Why is it that in the past I have always assumed the worst about God? I would read a verse in the Bible and assume the most fearful, wrathful meaning to it...

He is showing me that He is perfect love, so we can assume the BEST of Him!

I loved this, Aida!

lionwoman said...

Thanks Aida for your clear way of explaining things as always. Like our friend Darin, you have a gift with words. It truly is terrible the way these traditional beliefs about God put a person on a perpetual emotional roller coaster of fear and insecurity. Truthfully this message of total acceptance by God hasn't gotten all the way down to my core yet, but at least now that I am hearing truth, there is hope.

Aida said...

Sue, this misunderstanding of God’s love and character has done much damage to the body of Christ. How it must grieve his heart to see the fear in his children’s eyes whenever he tries to come near. Instead of running to him, they run away and hide in terror. Yet, he’s proven his love on the cross but we’ve been told that the only purpose of the cross was so we could go to heaven when we die.

Aida said...

Mishi, I love what you’ve shared!

Fear and shame have been major tactics used to keep the people of God under tight control. Rarely are we told the truth about his love.

That’s a great scripture that you’ve pointed out. I was told the same lie about the angels with the flaming sword but the story changes when we look at it through the eyes of love. You're right! The angels were posted there as guardians until we could find our way back. What a beautiful story of God’s love!

Aida said...

Sparrow girl, how wonderful!

We’ve all been told lies about God and we’ve all believed them but in our hearts, we knew they weren’t true. Then, as we began to hear that he’s love, the truth that was already in us, began to bubble up. I believe when we look at the Bible through the lens of love, everything changes. Those scary verses aren’t scary anymore but now they paint a beautiful picture of a God who’s head over heels in love with us.

Aida said...

Thanks, Lionwoman.

“A perpetual emotional roller coaster of fear and insecurity” is a great description of my past life as a believer. Up one day, down the next. Never really sure if I would make it to heaven or not. I’m so thankful for the teaching I’ve received that has helped me to understand the truth about God’s love and character. Darin Hufford has been a great friend who has helped me sort through the lies in order to see more of the truth.

You and I have been friends for a long time and I’ve seen a lot of growth in you. As we’ve discussed, this is a process and you’re moving forward in the process so just keep heading in the direction in which you’re going. You’re doing just fine.

zinger said...

Hey Aida,

Great topic, I think that this is one of the reasons why I currently have such a huge hate on organized religion. They need Father to be big and nasty, so they can be the go betweens, yuck....

This is some that is the most important thing that we need to Know in the very core of our being. something that Father has been working in me over the last couple of years.

How could we have missed it?? Even the angels proclaiming the arrival of Jesus assured us that we were objects of Fathers favour.

Cheers Jon

Aida said...

Jon, that’s a good point. The angels declared that Jesus’ birth was good news yet how could a hateful angry God be good news. When I look back at my time in religion, I wonder why I didn’t question or even see the disconnect.

Thanks for commenting. It’s always good to hear from you.

Ian said...

Hi Aida,

I was stumbling around in Genesis 3 recently and what struck me was that when Adam & Eve "had their eyes opened" they became aware of their nakedness and so made coverings for themselves and this happened even prior to hiding from God. It's as if they became aware that they were now separate from each other and so the shame / hiding began at that point.

And your point is a good one about God, sin & holiness. It also has this conversation God has about "the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil". So I guess the point is God knows everything there is to know about evil but is not evil himself. Like you I sat through years of hearing sermons about God unable to look at sin & sinful people but it's just not the case.

Aida said...

Great comments, Ian.

Shame not only causes us to hide from God but it also causes us to hide from one another. Because we never feel like we’re good enough, we wear masks when we relate to one another. Now, because our shame has been nailed to the cross, we can take off those masks and be free to be who we are.

I wish we had been told the truth in church all of those years. If we had, I believe we would be seeing a different Church today.

Sue said...

Maybe we'll start seeing a different one tomorrow.

Aida said...

Sue, you're funny.

To be honest, I don't think the type of church we see today is going anywhere soon. I think it's going to be around for a looong time but maybe not with the influence it has today since so many people are starting to find life and relationships outside of its walls.

I think it's interesting that this is even happening in the third world countries.

Sue said...

I guess I was referring to the capital "c" church. It amazes me how much life is spreading through the Body as compared to, say, 10 years ago. Wonderful :)

Aida said...

Sue, you’re right. I think the internet has a lot to do with that. Before it got so widespread, we thought we were all alone. Now we know there’s a whole community out there that we can connect to.

The Bible says that the glory of the Lord will cover the earth like the waters cover the seas. I think we’re seeing that now.