Covering Our Shame

“The pride of your heart has deceived you….” (Obadiah vs.3)
“Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame....” (Obadiah vs.10)

If we think about it, is this not the same scenario that takes place between Adam and Eve and God in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3? Adam and Eve, created in the image of God (their created identity), bought the deception that they can be something on their own (apart from God). Their pride (themselves before God) brought shame into each person’s life. Both Adam and Eve discover a sense of nakedness that was previously unfamiliar to them. Their pride resulted in shame.

Essentially, shame is another way of speaking of nakedness. When we are shamed or feel ashamed, we feel exposed or naked. In being exposed, Adam and Eve seek something to cover their nakedness. But, even their coverings are not enough to cover-over their shame. The intimacy they once shared with God is now severed. In a sense, they performed an act of violence to their relationship with God. And their shame (exposure) is the consequence of such violence. So, they cover over their act of violence — thinking they can avoid the shame. But, no matter how much they try to cover it, they never completely cover it. They may be covered in leaves, but when they look at each other, their coverings are a continual reminder that they are still exposed. So, not only do they commit violence to their relationship to God, but in their ambition to cover their sin, Adam and Eve commit violence to their marriage. They hide themselves from each other — they commit violence to their intimacy with each other. Further, in their attempt to cover over the violence they committed against their relationship to God, they hide themselves from him. So, they not only cut-off their interaction with God, but they go as far as to actually cut-off their presence and availability to God. 

Their response to shame reveals something about the nature of sin. When sin occurs, rather than allowing sin to remain exposed for what it is, the temptation is for humans to seek to cover it up; and when our first attempt fails, we cover it up with another sin, and so on and so on — thinking our next attempt will surely cover over the shame in our lives. Our attempts to cover our shame result in further shame. We cover over shame with more shame — sin with more sin.

This scenario does not just apply to the lives of Adam and Eve. We see in the prophecy of Obadiah to the Edomites that this fracture between God and humanity is still rippling throughout humanity, even many years later. Obadiah speaks against the violence that Edom commits against Israel. Obadiah says, “Because of your violence against your brother Jacob [Israel], you will be covered with shame….” Shame results from violence. Shame results from sin.

The context of this scenario revolves around Edom’s view of themselves — their identity — in relation to that of Israel. Israel is God’s chosen people group, but Edom acts toward them as if this is not the case. They are Edom, and they can do whatever they please. But, Obadiah’s prophecy says otherwise. This prophecy is essentially a condemnation of their pride, selfishness, and laziness — their attitude of superiority and unaccountable-ness. What often results from a scenario like this — where pride is exposed — is either an acceptance for one’s actions and attitudes or a denial of one’s actions and attitudes. The second response is what Adam and Eve chose to do. They chose to deny their actions and attitudes and covered over the shame that resulted.

Similarly to Adam and Eve and the nation of Edom, we today, have another option available to us. It is the first response listed above. If Adam and Eve would have accepted and confessed their actions to God — based on the rest of the Bible — there is no reason to not think that God might have redeemed them right then and there. But, that is not what happened. Adam and Eve chose to deny their actions and attitudes. But, when Jesus shows up on the scene, he emphasizes the alternative option — the opportunity for redemption.

The Apostle Paul is someone who experienced the redemption that Jesus’ made known. In Romans 6, Paul writes, “…don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” I understand Paul to be saying that when we surrender to Christ and are baptized into him, it is fitting that baptism mimics a death or sorts. We know from both Adam and Even’s story and Paul’s reference in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death.” Death is the consequence of sin. This was true for Adam and Eve, and true of us. Death is the ultimate form of exposure and shame — exclusion from everyone and everything.

Jesus, though, flips death on it’s head. His death is not the result of his shame, but the shame of others. And, in Jesus’ death, he takes on the shame of his executors (representative of all of us) — and in the process, exposes human shame for what it is — sin, separation from God. But rather than reacting to the shame placed upon him, he does not seek to cover it on his own, but instead, entrusts himself to his heavenly Father. And what results is an eternal-death-defying covering for the shame placed upon him — a resurrected life.

When we stop denying the reality of our sin and call it what it is, we purposely put ourselves in a vulnerable — an exposed state. In the thought of Paul, when we are baptized into Christ, we are choosing to embrace the deathly-ness of our sin and the sin committed against us. But, in that purposeful death we encounter Christ. For, it was in death, that Jesus’ resurrected life emerged. And, when we embrace our death — we too (in a mysterious way) are buried with Christ. And, we too are risen to life with Christ in his resurrection. As Paul says elsewhere in Galatians 3, when we are baptized, we are clothed with Christ.

Jesus is the covering for our shame. There is nothing we can do to cover over our shame. But, yet that is where we find ourselves — outside of Christ — trying to cover our shame and make a name for ourselves. We, like Adam and Eve are in the heritage of ditching the identity God gives us, in exchange for making our own identity or finding our identity in something else. Maybe we seek meaningful identity in physical identities (e.g. body shape, style of dress, lifestyle). Maybe we seek meaningful identity in national identities (e.g. American, Canadian, progressive, conservative). Maybe we seek meaningful identity in cultural identities (e.g. Resident of Clarence, Italian, upper class, sexuality, positions of power).

Whenever we seek our identity outside of the God revealed in Christ Jesus, we commit the same violence and sin as Adam and Eve and Edom. And, when we turn to something other than Christ to cover the shame of our violence, or the violence committed against us — we also end-up in the same perpetual violent cycle as Adam and Eve and nations like Edom.

What covers over the shame of your sin? Is it Christ Jesus? Only in him, will our shame and sin truly be covered and our souls delivered from death to life.