Even if you’re not religious it’s a frightening thought to realize there are humans who lack the ability to feel. Sociopaths and psychopaths scare us. We think of such people as unable to feel. Unable to empathize. But the phrase used by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians – “past feeling” – is more insidious because it involves a person’s feelings toward God.
“Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall; at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith Jehovah.”
Past feeling means unable or unwilling to be ashamed. People who have lived in such a hard way that their heart is hardened and unable to feel remorse for their sinful, immoral behavior. Paul points out the reasons why they’ve reached this point.
Their understanding is darkened. They have chosen to not understand God or God’s Word. They could understand, but they don’t want to. They’d rather ignore God’s commands.
“And he said unto them, Unto you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest haply they should turn again, and it should be forgiven them. And he saith unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how shall ye know all the parables?”
“For this cause they could not believe, for that Isaiah said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and he hardened their heart;
Lest they should see with their eyes, and perceive with their heart, And should turn, And I should heal them.”
God created us with free will. He empowers us to make up our own minds. To decide for ourselves and live however we’d like. God’s desire is that all men would be saved eternally.
1 Timothy 2:3-5
“This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus…”
And even though God has done – and continues to do – everything possible to give us opportunities to obey Him and be saved, He’ll allow us to rebel. The problem is when we decide to rebel we go away from God toward our own self-centeredness. We figure it’ll be better – or fun or whatever else we think – if we just do what we want. When we do, our understanding of God and what we need to do to be saved in Heaven is darkened.
Now we’re alienated from God through our own decisions and actions. God hasn’t moved, but we’ve left God. Whatever favorable relationship we may have once had with God is now gone. By our own doing.
A hard heart has taken hold of our life. We’re stubborn, rebellious, and self-centered. The more we behave that way the more we tend to want to behave that way. Sooner than later, our heart – our mind – is hardened against God. And now we’re past shame. This is why we see people who have given themselves over to sin behave with such brazen arrogance. Their immorality grows. They are indeed given to their own lasciviousness – lewdness, illicit sexual desires, lusts. Even non-religious folks often refer to such lifestyles as “filthy,” or “nasty” or “depraved.”
People who are so committed to their own sin are behaving with such selfishness the Bible calls it “greediness.” They have an excessive desire to serve themselves. Nobody. Nothing matters more than what they want.
The power phrase of these passages is that final phrase, “…but ye did not so learn Christ.”
God, Christ, and the Bible don’t teach us that behavior. We surrender to ourselves and decide we’ll abandon God – that’s how this happens. That’s how our mind can become so decayed that we’re past feeling. We don’t care what others think of us. We don’t care what God thinks of us.
Past feeling is rock bottom. Would that people could recognize the bottom when they get there? Those who figure it out before they no longer feel any guilt for their sin have increased opportunities to “come to themselves” and repent. Sadly, so many don’t.
Shame serves a righteous purpose. It helps us understand that we have sin from which we need to be saved. Without shame, we’re beyond feeling that we need redemption supplied by God through Jesus Christ. And we ALL need redemption because we’ve all sinned. Jesus is the only remedy. In Him, we have the gospel of our salvation.