Naked & Ashamed
So one of the questions for my Human Personality final was this: Teach a group of young unbelievers about nakedness/shame. Ok then, here's my answer (assuming I have 10 minutes w/ a college-aged group):
I've got a confession to make – I have always wanted to visit a nude beach. That probably sounds a little perverse coming from someone who's both married and soon to be a pastor, but I'll bet if you are honest, many of you probably feel the same way deep down.
You have to admit, it sounds kind of exciting at first blush. Kind of like being at Burning Man out in the middle of the desert: you can do whatever you want with whomever you want; there are no inhibitions, no rules, no one telling you how to live your life. For many of us that's what nakedness represents – it's absolute confidence in the face of ultimate exposure. It sounds tantalizing, like the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden – just hanging there, begging to be eaten.
Now, this may surprise some of you, but Scripture actually takes a very positive view of nakedness. For two whole chapters anyway. But as soon as Adam and Eve eat from the tree of knowledge, everything changes. Throughout the rest of Scripture, nakedness is always presented as something negative, something shameful. Why?
The easy answer would be to say that the Bible was just written by a bunch of pre-modern Puritanical prudes. But I don't think that's the case. You see, if you actually read any Scripture at all (especially to your kids), you quickly discover that sex is all over the place. The people the Bible speaks about were certainly into sex. And some of the people who did the speaking were pretty into it as well (go read “Song of Solomon” sometime).
Sex is everywhere in Scripture. But Scripture recognizes that sex is not everything. And this gets us back to nakedness and shame. Why are we fascinated by nude beaches? I think it boils down to two things: we desire to see, and to be seen.
First, we desire to see. Let's face it – how many of us guys grew up wishing we had Superman's X-Ray vision. Just like Adam, we desire knowledge, we desire to see things as they really are, we desire to see other people with all their clothes off. And when you start asking why, I think most of it comes down to lust.
Why do people like me want to visit nude beaches? Because people like me have appetites that run all the way to our core – we want to be able to be unrestrained in our gazing at naked women. We desire to be little gods and satisfy our curiosity about everything, we desire to consume. That's why pornography and sex is so enslaving to so many. We are enslaved to our desires. We can't stop desiring, we can't stop craving, we can't turn off our flesh. And I'll bet deep down most of you are just like me.
I'll also bet that most of you know that's wrong. You may not believe a lick of what the Bible says, but you know that this kind of lust is not noble, natural, or even ok – it's perverse. It treats other people as objects to be used, rather than as treasures to be honored and cherished simply because of who they are – exalted humanity created in the image of God.
And that leads us to my second point, we desire to be seen. Deep down, I think we all want to be seen for who we really are, warts, sags, cellulite and all – and we want to be loved and valued in spite of our appearance, our behavior. And guess what, it rarely happens. There's a reason we're all wearing clothes.
Girls, how do you feel when you realize that all that guy really cares about is the size of your breasts? How do you feel when you stand naked in front of the mirror and you know that you can't measure up to what he's seeing online? How would you feel if someone saw you in one of those cute little midriff baring outfits and thinks “Eewww!” You'd be embarrassed.
Guys, how would you feel on that nude beach if the woman you are oogling could read your mind and see exactly what you are thinking? You'd feel ashamed.
The fundamental message of Scripture is that we are meant to be glorious, and yet ever since Adam, every one of us is bent, we are deeply flawed. And so we feel shame whenever our desires or imperfections are exposed. Scripture says we need to be covered, we need to be clothed. And Scripture offers us hope that this is possible.
2 Cor 5:4 says “While we are still in this tent [this frail earthly body], we groan, being burdened – not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”
This is the message of the gospel – there is a way to have the life that you are craving. God makes a way for you to be beautiful, all the way to the core. Not by anything you can do yourself, but on the basis of everything Christ has done for you. Christ can cloth your nakedness, but the only way you get it is by admitting you have a problem that you can't fix yourself. That's why Rom 13:14 says, “Put on Christ.”
Scripture calls you to put all your hope in Christ, so that you can be truly seen and accepted by the one who matters most. Put on Christ. And when you put on Christ, something profound happens. Christ will tame your desires. He will turn your lusts into love. He will liberate you from your slavery. No more nakedness, no more shame.