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• Greg Boyd

In the second week of our Overwhelmed series Greg unpacks the topic of shame. We begin by looking at the origin of shame in Genesis 3; what shame is and where it comes from. Next we look at how God defeats shame on the cross and welcomes us to live shame-free lives through His unconditional love.


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In a survey of the Woodland Hills congregation 29% listed shame as the largest struggle in their lives. So, what is shame and what does God say about it? To begin, Greg turns to the origin of shame mentioned in Genesis.

In Genesis 3:1-11 God lives in a whole and life giving relationship with Adam and Eve. The scripture says they walk with God in the cool of day, naked and without shame. Adam and Eve enjoyed and loved God as God loved and enjoyed them. In the center of the garden of Eden is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The tree is a representation of God’s loving “no trespassing sign.” The tree represents the idea that humans, rather than God can define what is good and bad. The way that the serpent tempts Eve, is still the major way the enemy tries to deceive us today, by questioning God’s character. Satan tries to get Eve to take the fruit, and take life for herself rather than trust what God says about her. If you don’t trust what God says about you, you must get your identity for yourself.

It is after Adam and Eve eat the fruit that they first encounter shame and feel defective. Rather than basking in the joy of time with God, they begin to think God is to be feared. Genesis 3 is not just a story of what went wrong in the past, but it is a story of what still goes wrong today.

Humans were never meant to feel a lack of worth, this is unnatural to us and what is unnatural to us is often experienced as pain. We were meant to be in a shame-free and unconditionally loving relationship with God. Think of a newborn baby being held by their parents. They are loved and adored for no other reason than they exist. This love is enough and it is the fullness of life we were meant to live in. Unfortunately, we are born into a world that tells us we are shameful and that points out our nakedness.

The question God asks Adam and Eve is the same question we have to contend with today. Who told you, you were naked? When did you lose your innocence?

Greg shared his first memory of shame. His grandmother got gifts for all of his siblings, but didn’t get one for him. She told him it was because he was a bad little boy. This negative belief followed him throughout his life, until he encountered the freedom of Christ. This is what shame does to us. The judgment on us, becomes judgment in us. Shame freezes us in the time of the judgment and it is toxic. However, God does not leave us in our shame. Roman crucifixion was designed not just to be horribly painful, but to be terribly humiliating. The victim was stripped naked, beaten, and mocked by the crowds. Yet, Hebrews 12:2 tells that Jesus disregarded the shame of the cross for the joy set before Him. In the cross God takes on our shame, and He undoes the curse. The cross reveals the character of God, that He loves us unconditionally.

In Ephesians 2:6 we learn that where Jesus sits we sit. He sits in the place of honor, and we are with Him there. So, if Jesus condemns all shame, we can condemn all shame. If Jesus destroyed all shame, we can consider all shamed destroyed. The only question left before us is will we believe it? Will we live experiencing this truth?

Hebrews 11:1 gives us the definition of faith. It is something we live into. Greg recommends two ways to start practicing faith in this area:

1. Spend time experiencing faith as you love and enjoy God loving and enjoying you. Just be you before Jesus and let God love you as you. You will never get out of old patterns, until you let God love you where you are as you are.

2. Spend time seeing yourself as the true shame-free self you are in Christ. It is as we get our minds to see it we begin to experience it and live into it.

For who the Son has set free is free indeed.

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Topics: Identity in Christ, Judgment, Love

Sermon Series: Overwhelmed

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Focus Scripture:

  • Hebrews 12:2

    Because of the joy awaiting him, [Jesus] endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

  • Genesis 3:1-11

    The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”

    ?“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as

    you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.

    ?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.

    Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”

    “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”

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12 thoughts on “Shame

  1. Dave PRITCHARD says:

    This awesome message opens up a huge ‘Pandora’s Box’ of related material on the subject of ‘Shame’. Some psychiatrists have concluded that ‘Shame’ is an acutely self-conscious state in which the self is then ‘split’ – imagining the self in the eyes of the other. But by contrast when ‘Guilt’ occurs in our minds, one’s internal self is unified. This is an interesting dynamic when you considering the social mechanics of ‘Guilt Absorption’ and ‘Shame Projection’ –

    “Why if you really loved your country, your spouse, your children, you’d then…..”

    There’s also clinical evidence to demonstrate that ‘Shame’ is inherently linked at the roots to NPD – “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” This essentially falls into two subtypes or a combination there of –

    1. A grandiose, arrogant, thick-skinned self-assurance persona.
    2. An easily hurt, oversensitive, ashamed hyper-vigilant persona.

    Theses attributes are a developed externalized cover for a weak internalized self, which attempts to hide the ‘true shame’ within. Another trait of this kind of personality consistently neutralizes and devalues others by seeing them as unjust abusers.

    Any current political figures come to mind – Ha!

    When stepping back to Genesis, one of the first things out of Adam’s mouth after ‘The Fall’ is –

    “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” – Gen 3:12

    Adam immediately tries to shift the blame off onto her for his willfully mistrustful actions. Such is the story of life. Some ‘shame’ however, [in realistic minute doses] can be beneficial to turning your heart around and repenting of that which hurts another and or yourself. If you felt nothing at all, no guilt or remorse – then that in effect, would be even worse. It’s when shame becomes ‘Toxic’ and ‘Pathological’ that is does its unhealthiest damage. Sexual abuse, addiction and paranoia are the mechanisms by which the ‘enemy’ attempts to enslave us through shame.

    Gershen Kaufman has written some fascinating material on the subject and is a proponent of ‘Affect theory’ and coined the term “Shame Spiral”. Whether you subscribe to these theories or not, the amazing truth is that Jesus in his humanity, assumed in his own mind and body all of the pain, suffering and guilt we can or would ever experience but yet simultaneously remained true and faithful to his Heavenly Father. Acknowledging this beautiful life changing ontology not only gives us hope for the future, but the power to live guilt free and unshackled from shame.

  2. Donald McKay says:

    For many years I’ve thought this cartoon to be worth a thousand words. Thank you Greg for this evangel – this good message! http://www.doka.ch/cartoonsantasmoral.jpg

  3. diana obrien says:

    My prayer is that EVERYONE who is attending the workshops at WHC February 24th and 25th, guys and gals, will take the time to listen to Greg’s message on shame again. There is so much here God wants to speak into hearts and minds that are frozen and still living in the prison of shame. The steps to freedom and the experience of living in God’s accepting and pure love are set out here.

  4. Peter says:

    As Greg indicated at the beginning of his message, approximately one in three of those members of the congregation who responded to the survey were (still) affected by shame. From this, it is evident that we generally understand what shame is and how it impacts daily on our life. Shame was further defined by Greg through the message and how it has been dealt with by the Cross to release believers so that they can live in the freedom of being a true son of God.

    This reminded me of part of the scripture that I posted previously from Eph 5 (25-27),

    “…as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

    In this scripture, we find through Christ’s work on the Cross no mention of shame being retained in the Church…but bringing the Church to perfection viz ‘holy and without blemish’.

    Greg aptly described the beginning and impact of shame on the lives of Adam and Eve where their post-Fall lives stood in stark contrast to the glorious Creation that surrounded them and which, up until then, they were to look after. Effectively, their lives moved from being without shame to being shame driven…as Dave also discusses in his post above.

    When God said to Adam that he could not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or he would surely die, God is not talking essentially about biological death but relational death with Him, humanity and Creation. Post-Fall the relationship with God was broken and hence His love ceased to be the driving point of their lives…they now feared Him…love disappeared between themselves…Eve was criticized by Adam (as Dave notes) and ultimately they must strive to get food from the ground (the relationship with Creation changed).

    So prior to the Fall, God, Creation and (innocent) Adam and Eve were love based in their relational lifestyle but post-Fall and the death of their relationship with God, they lost their innocence and the love of God. Additionally, their eyes were opened and they now knew (as in had knowledge of) the difference between good and evil (although they were not of the purity or wisdom of God to properly judge good and evil) so, in a sense their lifestyle (and that of humanity) became ‘law based’ rather than ‘love based’.

    One of the early definitions of sin we receive is ‘missing the mark’. So that if we obey the Law we don’t sin, whereas disobedience is sin and brings with it the consequence of shame of not doing something that we should be able to do.

    We don’t have to go far to one of the next aspects in the Bible where shame plays a part and that is between Cain and Abel. We have the situation where Abel’s offering was accepted as righteous (Heb 11:4) by God but Cain’s was not. As a result, we are told in the following scriptures (Gen 4:6-7),

    “The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.””

    From this, Cain, like his parents, didn’t meet the expectation of God with the consequent sin and shame effectively leading him to murder his brother and, also like his parents, trying to hide behind a set of words to God…”am I my brother’s keeper?”

    So, in a sense, mankind is able to live without shame by being obedient to the God’s Law. Of course, Israel became God’s chosen nation and is given His Law. An interesting aspect to God’s Law is, for example, if you met a stranger who said to you, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink (alcohol), I don’t do drugs and I go to church every Sunday…assuming this is true, you would have a reasonable estimation of the type of person he is. So it is with God’s Law that His Laws (in a holistic sense) go to the heart of God’s character and reflect who He is.

    We find the failure of Israelites to be obedient to God’s Law and therefore incorporates the sacrificial system to remediate their sin/disobedience and shame. One of the extraordinary aspects of this is the arrival/Incarnation of Jesus and His ministry and specifically Luke 22:35-40,

    “ And one of them, a lawyer, asked him (Jesus) a question, to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.””

    Here we have a ‘law based’ society with a lawyer coming to Jesus and asking Him, which is the greatest law to which Jesus effectively responds you are not to live a ‘law based’ life but a ‘love based’ life (vertically and horizontally)… as ‘on these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets’

    In its right context, we find David saying in Psalm 40:8,

    “I delight to do thy will, O my God;
    thy law is within my heart.”

    However, if we perceive ‘fulfilling’ the Law (without love) as means of superiority, we become like the Pharisees patting ourselves on the back and judging others to create shame and unworthiness.

    We must conclude with Paul from Romans 10:9-11,

    “.…..if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”

  5. Kevin says:

    @dave and peter…are you two on the staff at woodland hills? you two guys always have much to say and i, as a podrishioner, need to know if i can trust what you both say, yeah? Otherwise…..SHADDUP

    1. Amanda Churchill says:

      Hello Kevin,

      Dave and Peter are not on staff here at WH, but we appreciate and value their contributions to the conversations here! Our hope for this comment space here is that people can feel free to openly dialogue together about what God is speaking to them, and what the teachings may be sparking in them. We hope that this is a space where we can all learn from one another, whether the commenter is a staff member, podrishioner, or congregant member. 🙂

  6. Dave PRITCHARD says:

    Your opinion is as good as mine Bro! Say what your feeling.

  7. Esther O'Connor says:

    I appreciate your comments BTW and often read them… thanks for your regular contributions…

  8. Serge Auclair says:

    Good and evil when we picture the love of God in the background becomes what makes all of us joyful and evil becomes everything that makes us miserable.

    Since God knows much better than I ever will, happiness is defined by His standards and, objectivity to the extent of what we can assess, is part of it. If it’s true then it is in the realm of God.

    Thank you Lord for the awesome privilege of being in a personal relationship with you. SA xx

  9. Jodie A. Fisher says:

    Oh you are breaking me wide apart right now…my insides are splitting….who told me…..

    You are telling me I don’t have to listen to who told me these things about me…from the time when I was born, to a 17 year old mother who had NO clue what she was doing, and a father who worked and drank all the time…and I lived, literally, in a crib for TWO YEARS……mostly absent of any human presence……we lived in the country….no visitors..no family..mom didn’t drive…she was SCARED of me…..

    I lived…..with NOBODY to value me for who I was…I tried to “be” for her… in my own baby limited way……

    Oh it doesn’t matter…the story…..

    what you said….about how GOD SEES us……NOT LIKE THAT…..not naked…ashamed….feeling worthless in our identity….

    I don’t have any other words…than the tears that fall so prevalently right now… my chest heaves with the sighs and potent waves of my cries…..at recognizing TRUTH…..

    But yet still hesitant to totally grasp onto it… I am almost 50 now….can it finally be true….that I can BE innocent…….and loved….and non-judged…..for who…I … am…?

    Please Lord, let it be so.. my soul is overwhelmed with the truth that I have heard so far (had to stop this video 1/2 way through because I became so overwhelmed…..I will listen to the rest now….)…..

  10. Jodie A. Fisher says:

    I also learned this from the southern baptist church I was siphoned off onto (because they had a special red bus that came out and picked up all the kids in the country to bring them to church even though their parents didn’t go and it gave my mom excuse to get rid of me for awhile)…….

    They told me GOD HATED ME!!!! They told me unless I “prayed the prayer” I was DOOMED to Hell forever….I had such panic attacks all throughout my childhood from this…..I could not say that prayer enough…thinking I didn’t say it sincerely or right enough to be “saved.” And so I assumed I was destined to hell for most of my childhood.

    It took until I was 45 years old… 11/11/2010 when God came into my life in such a REAL and POWERFUL way….(when I was deeply steeped in the new age movement…talk about a “drug” that keeps you thinking “all is ok!!!”….) when I realized that God was REAL….He WAS who He SAID he was…..but then a hindrance…a stumbling block (drinking) has plagued me since that time…….off and on…but a slippery slope nonetheless….I have avoided it all of my life OUTSIDE of God….because of my family history of alcoholism……

    But once I was CONVERTED….THEN it took hold of me?????? WHAT??? Seriously…I don’t understand it… I am fighting it on my own power….and am not “fully rock bottom” as some can get…but with my relationship with my Father…oh it has hindered that…. I have listened to the video on Addiction already… powerful…..but I believe even if you stop drinking….and you keep the THINKING about it… it still has control (which is where I am now)…..and so I do NOT feel FREE… I still feel a slave…. just white knuckling my way through…takes so much energy…..

    I want to be free….I want to be free to WALK WITH GOD IN THE COOL OF THE EVENING!!! IT IS MY ULTIMATE WISH!!!!!! (tears…………)

    But I don’t know how this is possible… I feel so dirty and shameful and such a failure…..

    And even if He doesn’t see me that way… how do I not SEE me that way so I can ACCEPT this Love from Him…..

    So I cry… and listen to what you say…and BELIEVE you…but not yet living it…..

  11. Jodie A. Fisher says:

    I lost my innocence when I was 18 month old and my cries for SOMEBODY to love me..to acknowledge me….so I didn’t have to spend my days rocking back and forth in a crib….I lost it when I needed it SO BADLY at 18 months old she slapped me so hard across the face that I splintered into many parts………

    I knew this already internally but I had the grace of my mom telling me this actually occurred…..

    I learned I was naked at 18 months old. And satan was VERY much there during that…but that is a whole nother story……….

    I want to believe I am innocent…….I want to walk with God…..hold His hand…smile and dance for Him……play my flute for Him….and not feel it to be a performance…a test…an evaluation…I want to play and have Him hear me just sing my heart and soul for Him…..like I do on my worship team at church…the ONLY place I feel I can play and NOT feel I am being evaluated…….

    I want to walk with God in the cool breeze of the evening and not ever think I am naked…but rather… am just so authentically, uniquely me that I don’t even think about it… that I am only thinking about how much I love Him….because of how much He loves me. <3 THAT is my dream.

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