The End of Shame (Leviticus 15)

Summary:

We’re pretty big on acceptance these days. We’ve finally learned that we shouldn’t be ashamed of what we look like, who we love, or where we come from. We fight against hatred for people who are different, and the shame those people feel about being different. And it’s great. It’s empowering and kind and necessary and I love it. Minor example: I just read an article about how we should stop calling things “guilty pleasures” and I’m all for that! I could practically hear my internal chorus cheering “Never change, Denee! Everything you are is just fine.” But is that taking things a little bit too far?

If it is, Leviticus 15 seems to lie on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. This chapter details even more ways the Israelites could make themselves unclean and how to fix it. This time it has to do with, well, body fluids. Men who ejaculate and women who have their period are immediately and automatically unclean. The same is true of anything they touch, anyone who touches them, anyone who touches their semen or menstrual blood, or anyone who touches the things that they touch. If that wasn’t enough, women who have their period must make a burnt or sin offering at the tabernacle, seven days after their period, in order to complete their cleansing. Men only have to do this if their discharge lasts for longer than normal. All this probably made the question “Where are you headed?” really awkward, don’t you think?

The Treasures Within:

If You Can’t Accept Me At My Worst…

Is it just me, or do the rules in this chapter seem a little more strict than those that came before? I mean, I would probably be eager to bless my house after I found an entire mold in it, but this is a little different. This chapter is mostly dedicated to stuff that is super basic: men ejaculate, women have periods. What’s the big deal? Of course, God’s requirement that everyone involved in those experiences bathe makes complete sense, especially for a nomadic people. But declaring them “unclean” until evening? Making them offer sacrifices? Why did God make the Israelites go through all of that? Is that shaming?

Or is it a message? Periods and ejaculation are normal and expected. Yet God explicitly treated those normal bodily processes as things to be cleansed spiritually. Is that true about other things, too? What about those personality traits, those quirks and characteristics about ourselves that are just natural? What about those things that make us say “That’s just who I am” or “That’s just my personality”? Could the parts of ourselves that seem normal, basic, core and irreplaceable – need cleansing? Maybe it’s that tendency to impatience and road rage when you’re driving (guilty). Maybe it’s your dedication to telling it like it is, telling people about themselves, and then dropping them if they don’t like it. Maybe it’s how much you enjoy arguing and ranting about the things you care about (guilty again). Maybe it’s your preference to stay home where it’s comfortable, rather than spending time with people who want your company. Maybe these seemingly small things are hurting ourselves and others in big ways. Maybe you’re thinking this still sounds like shaming.

And it probably would be – if God left it at that. But He didn’t. For the Israelites, the purpose of the sacrifice was literally to take away shame. They were unclean, but now they are clean. An innocent being’s blood was shed, and from it came cleansing. The shame was ended. Two thousand years ago, another innocent Being shed His blood. The cleansing made possible from that sacrifice is still available, even today. There’s so much we don’t like about ourselves. There’s even stuff we shouldn’t like about ourselves. But when God points those things out, He doesn’t do it to laugh at us as He runs in the opposite direction – He does it because He wants to cleanse us. He wants to replace our shame with joy. He wants us to not just claim to be our best selves, but to actually be our best selves: made new by Him.

God’s Message To Us:

“I want to transform you.” Sometimes the teachings of Christianity can feel a bit like someone is trying to make you into a robot or a perfect clone. Reading some of God’s words can have you thinking “But I like doing…” or “But I like how I…” – I know because I’ve felt that way before. There’s this strong pull deep within us, compelling us to complacency. It tells us we shouldn’t have to change. It tells us changing would be to deny our very DNA. And it’s from the devil. If he had his way, all of us would live exactly as we are right now, every day until we die – because he doesn’t want us to go to heaven. He doesn’t want us to know God or to know true happiness. He doesn’t want us to be transformed. But God lives for that. He came to this earth and died on the cross for that – for our transformation. For us to let go of what we think is natural and embrace the supernatural, the mindblowing, the difficult, the extraordinary. This is by definition terrifying to us. But it’s not complicated. The blood has already been shed. The opportunity has already been created. All we have to do is believe: Believe that we need to change. Believe that we can change. Believe that God will change us.

What do you think? What sources of shame does God want to remove from your life? What message did you find in this chapter of the Bible?

There Are Always Questions:

  1. Why was it that periods were the only truly natural body process that required a burnt or sin offering for cleansing? Both males and females had to make an offering if they suffered from an unusually long discharge, but men who had a regular semen discharge didn’t have to do anything like that. Why?

One thought on “The End of Shame (Leviticus 15)

  1. The laws in this chapter seem to cry out, “Human beings are unclean!” It seems that every normal body process was unclean, which means that human beings are simply unclean, unacceptable, undone. We need redemption

    Like

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