The flood has subsided and Noah—not to be confused with Russell Crowe—becomes a man of the soil. As part of this he planted a vineyard and one day decided to enjoy the fruits of his labors. He got a bit tipsy and somehow wound up naked in his tent.
The details of what happens next are sketchy. And that is actually the point. Moses, our author, does the exact opposite of Noah’s youngest son, Ham. Ham is not ashamed to look upon the nakedness of his father. In fact he goes and gets his two brothers–conceivably to bring them in on this shameful event. Ham exposes Noah. Moses doesn’t give us sordid details of this good man’s fall. But instead he makes a contrast between Ham and Noah’s other sons. These other two sons do everything they can to cover the sin of their father.
“…love covers a multitude of sins.”
I am convinced that we are a generation of Hams and not Shem and Japheth. We glory in exposing sin and shame instead of covering it. Certainly we should “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” I think we’ve got that part down for the most part. What we lack, however, is a love which covers sin instead of exposing it.
Three Reasons We Are a Generation of Ham’s
I see three things in our church and culture which has converged to make us a generation of Ham’s.
First, we love authenticity. Or at least we love the idea of authenticity. If you have a few too many glasses of wine and end up naked in your tent why not just go ahead and frolic down the street? After all this is who you really are and what you’ve really done. No sense in having your own personal Watergate and covering up your sin.
Authenticity is certainly a good and biblical thing. We are not called to be hypocrites or white-washed tombs that betray what is really inside our hearts. We ought to be authentic and not hypocritical. But authenticity does not demand scheduling an interview with Barbara Walters whenever a pastor says something jerky to his best friend. Yet our culture would have this offended friend write an article for the local paper, take the pastor on Jerry Springer, and do all of this in the name of authenticity. When what really should happen is the whole thing is simply covered over in love.
Secondly, we live in a graceless culture. Our culture is graceless not because they have never heard a message of grace. They’ve likely heard that drum whacked about several times. No, our culture is graceless because we live in a culture that does not believe in a God of Justice. Because of this, each man believes that if justice will be served then it must come from our own hands. We cannot leave our Noahs in the tent without his sin being exposed—otherwise, we reason, it will never get dealt with.
In our minds, we can’t afford to give grace and allow any sin to go unpunished. Heaven knows that if we did such a thing—allowed things to just be covered in love—that nobody would ever change, and we’d likely split our lower intestine in half from holding in such a thing. You cannot let a person go free when she has wounded you, otherwise you’ll never heal and she’ll never change. The only way to really find healing is to beat her to a bloody pulp until she has paid for every ounce of her sin. Now you can truly find some healing.
The other option—the biblical option—is to understand that there is a God and he is Just. He does not let the guilty go unpunished and vengeance does indeed belong to him. Now of course he might in His sovereign love choose to pour out His wrath upon His precious Son instead of your bumbling friend—but the sin will be paid for all the same.
Lastly, we have a waiting audience. Ham would have had a field day in the 21st century. He’d have grabbed his iPhone shot a picture of his drunken dad, hopefully blurred the unmentionables, and then sent the photo to Instagram—which would have then went to his Twitter account (@Hambone) and then to his Facebook wall. In his time he did the next best thing—got his two brothers.
We don’t know what was going on in the heart of Ham—but we know it wasn’t good. If he is anything like us in the 21st century he was exposing his dad for the sake of making himself look better. Perhaps, he thought, this was time for the brothers to rally together and finally overtake the old man. His fall would be their rise.
It is this same reason that baits us into clicking that link that threatens to expose the latest evangelical leader. You click, you read, and part of you grieves. But let’s be honest, the other part of you delight in his exposure because it means you can congratulate yourself for being a tad better than this newly crowned idiot of the week.
Of course real love doesn’t desire to gain popularity or camaraderie by exposing a fallen brother. Real love covers the offense even if exposing it would mean better blog traffic, better feelings about self, and a more esteemed view in the eye of others. Real love will put a blanket over the father and weep for his sin.
Yes, we are a generation of Hams. But the gospel transforms us and calls us to be as Shem and Japheth. Brothers and sisters, let’s be intentional about covering offenses in love. Let’s at least pursue understanding what this means.