I am no naturist, but our original state in the garden of Eden, was to be naked.
Adam and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.
Genesis 2 v 25 (NIV)
As an English woman, I'm not sure that I fully understand this verse, because I'm not certain I completely understand shame.
I used to think that it meant that they weren't ashamed, which is a concept that the English embrace. Think of the diffident, reserved characters in the novels of Jane Austen or the detective in Death in Paradise. Embarrassment, reserve, feeling ashamed we know about, but not shame or honour.
Living in Turkey, my husband, Andy and we are respected and honoured. Andy is a pastor, or elder, as well as an engineer, and I am a teacher. We are both older and so if you are from Africa, the Far East or the Middle East, you would expect us to be honoured.
However, in The West, we can feel invisible. In Britain we honour the Queen, but not many other people, except people who deserve it because of something they have done.
Conversely, we don't feel shame in the same way. In Turkey, a daughter running away with her boyfriend, would shame the family. In Britain, there would no need to run away.
Imagine a leader in your church being arrested for violence and theft. This would reflect badly on the whole church, giving it a bad reputation.
This is closer to the biblical concept of shame.
In an iconic scene in a popular fantasy series a ruler is forced to walk naked through a crowd of her subjects, as they shout, 'Shame! Shame!'. This has a profound effect on her already damaged character. Public humiliation and loss of status and respect are central to shame.
(However I am carefully not identifying the series, because I can't recommend it. I spent much of it closing my eyes or skipping bits of it. We need to be careful about what we watch, but this is a matter that is for your own conscience. Personally I don't want to watch violent murders, sex scenes and people trespassing in rooms they are not allowed in.)
I mention it because it is such a good illustration for those who have seen the scene.
It was only when Adam and Eve rebelled against the Lord God that they felt shame and they saw that they were naked. They covered themselves with fig leaves and hid from the Lord.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
Genesis 3 v 6 - 11 (NIV)
We feel vulnerable if we are completely honest with anyone, even with our God.
We feel naked and want to cover up our weaknesses, mistakes and sin. It makes us feel uncomfortable, because we feel shame.
Jesus was naked on the cross.
Out of respect we modestly cover him in our statues and paintings, but in reality he was naked. He took our nakedness on himself and clothed us with his robe of righteousness. He became vulnerable, so that we need never feel naked. He covered our shame.
I delight greatly in the Lord;
My soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
And arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness
Isaiah 61 v 10 (NIV)
He took our shame.
We have been, or can become, children of Almighty God.
Such an honour!
This is part of the work of the cross.
(I found it difficult to find Easter songs about shame in the English language, possibly because shame and honour are not such strong themes in our culture. So I have chosen this beautiful Orthodox Psalm sung in Aramaic, the language that Jesus and his disciples spoke. The haunting music combined with the video is especially moving.)