Study Guide: Shame

Sunday February 12, 2017 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

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.  

Extended Summary:

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.

Reflection Questions:

  1. When do you first remember experiencing shame? Do you have moments of judgment that you have gotten frozen in?
  2. What judgments have you believed about yourself? How do those judgments compare to the identity that Christ has declared over you through the Cross?
  3. When you examine shame in your own life how does the Cross expose the lies of shame for you?
  4. What would it look like for you to spend time basking in the love of God for you and imagining yourself shame free in Christ?