Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Unclothed in Beauty

A few days ago when I was reading through this narrative in Genesis 3, I thought it striking that when Adam declared to God that he was naked, God's response was, "Who told you this?" as though God had known all along that Adam was naked and simply had not told him.

But this raises a great theological difficulty. Namely, it's very problematic if God creates you in such a way that you would be ashamed of it if only you knew.

Because Adam's response to his nakedness, his gut reaction, his first instinct was shame. The serpent shows him that he is naked and he makes a dive for the bushes, hiding not just from God but from himself. And if it is true that God always knew Adam was naked and just had not told him about it, it makes you wonder - rightfully - what else God knows about you that you "ought" to be ashamed of. It is a dangerous and difficult road to go down.

Herein lies a great theological truth, however, and this is what we have to keep in mind: if ever we should come across anything, even in God's Word, that exists in direct conflict with all that we know about God, what He has revealed about His character, what He has demonstrated in His great love for us, then whatever it is that we have come across is in some way not accurate.

In other words, we do not need to waste our time trying to figure out how it is that God created a naked Adam and did not tell the man; this runs counter to our very foundational knowledge of God Himself. Rather, what we must ask is what in this story we might be missing that would bring it back in harmony with what is real, and therefore unchanging, about God.

And in this case, the brilliant truth of Genesis 3 is not that God had always known that Adam was naked, but that He never had.

What the serpent had convinced Adam was his own nakedness, God has always seen as the unclothed beauty of man. It was the very intentional, very beautiful, "very good" openness of his very design.

It's this subtle little difference, right? It's this tiniest little thing that the serpent has seized upon in this moment. Here is this man, this being created in the image of God, and every time that God looks at him, God sees His own image reflected therein. Man is, indeed, a special creation, and the heart of God is wildly fond of him in all of his unclothed beauty. 

But the serpent convinces the man, this being created in the image of God, not to see the image of God in himself but only his creatureliness. Look around, the serpent says; you are exposed for what you are, nothing but a statue of mud and bone. Nothing but yet another fabrication in all of this creation. Nothing but a creature

Not even a being, just a creature. Not a man, just a beast. The way that the dogs and the cattle and the sheep and the oxen are beasts. Look, for you are exposed just as they are; there is no special dignity to clothe you.

That's really what the serpent took away from Adam. It was not really cover that Adam found himself lacking; it was dignity. In one little lie, the serpent stripped that away from him and what was once unclothed in beauty was now naked in shame. 

And then God, the God who so loved the man and the woman of His special creation, grieved, for what He had warned them of from the very beginning had happened. The man had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge and had come to know evil that could never just be taken away from him.

Who told you that you were naked?

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