A Shameless Society

By Edward O. Bragwell, Sr.

“Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down,” says the LORD (Jer. 6:15; also see 8:12).

The Lord’s rebuke of ancient Israel, especially the priests and prophets, ought to serve as a warning for our modern society. Israel had a two-fold problem: (1) they had committed abomination and (2) they were not ashamed of it. The Lord said they did not “know how to blush.”

It is bad enough to sin against the Lord, but to reach the point that one can openly do it without blushing compounds the guilt.

Have we not become a society that hardly knows how to blush? Things that were only done under the cover of darkness and behind the shield of privacy, in the very recent past, are now main street exhibitions – without any embarrassment. I can remember that even those who customarily practiced indecency, either in word or deed, were embarrassed when they slipped up and did it in the presence of those whom they thought were living by a higher standard. It seems that, as a society, we are becoming more and more shameless, not only in what we say and do, but also in the openness and boldness with which we do it.

Any society that loses its sense of shame and ability to blush is in deep trouble. It is well on its way to becoming a society that lives on the level of lower animals, satisfying every base appetite of the body and mind, without the restraints and direction of moral or spiritual consciousness.

The “sexual revolution” of recent years has brought a new openness in both language and conduct that ought to have us all blushing. Vulgarity and profanity are now common place. Things that should not be said at all are heard nearly everywhere we go, without it even raising an eyebrow with most people. Public displays of sensuality have become so much a part of life that most people think nothing of it any more. We are exposed to it daily on radio and TV, at theaters, on tapes, in the marketplace, at school, at work, at social functions, etc. I am fearful that so much exposure has caused many of us to lose any sense of shame that we may have once had concerning such. This is frightening because of what Paul wrote about the pagan society of his day in Romans 1:26-32:

For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them (emphasis mine, E013).

One manifestation of how Christians are being more and more affected by the general lack of shame in society is the growing problem of immodesty in dress among us. Short shorts (sometimes rolled up a cuff), low cut dresses, see through garments, high slit skirts, skin tight clothing, and other sensually provocative attire are becoming all too common among those who profess to be New Testament Christians and the children for whom they are responsible. It is not uncommon any more for young ladies to show up at the services of the church wearing such attire – attire that is not only out of place in public worship, but should not be worn in mixed company anywhere. These have either never developed a sense of shame, with their parents’ help, or have lost it. Christians are to have a sense of shame that is deep rooted in the character, expressed by their clothing and general conduct: “In like manner, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefastness and sobriety; not with braided hair, and gold or pearls or costly raiment” (1 Tim. 2:9, ASV).

Shamefastness is from adios “perhaps from 1 (as a negative particle) and 1492 (through the idea of downcast eyes); bashfulness, i.e. (towards men), modesty or (towards God) awe (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance).

“A sense of shame, modesty,” is used regarding the demeanor of women in the church, 1 Tim. 2:9 (some mss. have it in Heb. 12:28 for deos, “awe”; here only in NT). ‘Shamefastness is that modesty which is “fast” or rooted in the character. . . The change to “shamefacedness” is more to be regretted because shamefacedness . . . has come rather to describe an awkward diffidence, such as we sometimes call sheepishness’ (Davies; Bible English, p. 12)” (An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, W.E. Vine, p. 568).

Thayer says it is “a sense of shame, modesty . . . prominently objective in its reference, having regard to others; while aisch. is subjective, making reference to one’s self and one’s actions . . . It is often said that aid precedes and prevents the shameful acts. . . “

So, one’s dress should reflect a sense of shame that is deep rooted in the character – a sense of shame that “precedes and prevents the shameful act” of indecently publicly exposing the body by immodest dress. Immodest dress is but a symptom of a deeper problem, a character flaw – an inward lack of shame that should characterize Christians.

Another disturbing thing that I am seeing is the lack of shame of those who are sexually promiscuous. Young unmarried people, even some who profess to be Christians or are children of Christians, publicly display their passions in a way that should be reserved only for married people and that in the privacy of their homes. It causes one to wonder what must go on when they away from the public eye. They are even heard to speak openly and frankly about their sensuality.

When a natural but undesirable consequence of their promiscuity evidences itself, there is still a disturbing lack of shame. When a sense of regret is shown, it is more in a vein of being sorry that they were so careless or stupid that they did not take adequate measures to avoid the consequences and not that they have done wrong and sinned against God until they are brought to repentance. This includes being genuinely ashamed of and sorry for what they have done to the God who created them. Well-meaning brethren, friends, and family members do them no favor by trying to make them feel less ashamed until they have repented. If we really want to “confirm our love toward them,” we will do all we can to make them feel as ashamed and guilty as possible until they show enough remorse to repent and get right with God. This can be done in a way that shows a love for their souls, rather than a self-righteous, moreholy-than-thou spirit. After they have sorrowed unto repentance is the time to apply 2 Corinthians 2:6-8: “This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.”

What are Christians, who must live in this kind of society, to do? Are we to be so overwhelmed by it that we conclude that we and our families cannot be expected to live right in such an environment? God forbid.

It is so easy for us to avoid our responsibilities as Christians and parents and blame our failures on the shameless society in which we have to live and rear a family. That is a cop-out, pure and simple. The societies in which early Christians had to live were no more conducive to living godly and rearing faithful children than ours is today. If anything, it was worse.

The Philippian Christians were told that they were expected to live “without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:15). The saints at Ephesus had to live in a city where a fertility goddess, Diana, was worshipped. Other cities had their idols. Licentiousness, drunkenness and sexual immorality were generally integral parts of idolatrous festivals and the pagan society in general. Could Christians be expected to live right and teach their children right under these conditions? Read what Paul wrote to the saints at Ephesus:

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them (emphasis mine, EOB). . . . And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 5:3-7; 6:4).

Looks like they were expected to live above the society around them and to bring their children up right in spite of it, doesn’t it?

Righteous Lot lived in Sodom, a city so ungodly that a sin was named after it, but he did not get so used to it that it did not bother him. Peter says that God “delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds) – then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Pet. 2:7-9). Lot did not lose his sense of shame and decency. It still bothered him greatly to see and hear sin. God delivered him, so will he us if we don’t surrender to the shameful conduct around us.

Remember what God said would happen to ancient Israel because of her shamelessness: “Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down.”

Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 24, pp. 742-743
December 20, 1990