The Bible begins with Paradise and ends with Paradise. The first two chapters of Genesis and the last two chapters of Revelation describe a setting in which humans freely and joyfully walk with God. That means the rest of the Bible happens between two gardens: Eden (Paradise lost) and Heaven (Paradise at history’s finish line).
We spend our whole lives in that in-between space. Along the way we learn firsthand that a great many of the good things God originally created have become significantly skewed.
Take sex for instance. During certain periods of history people have gotten seriously hung up about physical intimacy. Medieval theologians believed married couples should experience sex, but not that often. Church leaders declared intimacy was off-limits during advent, Lent, the eight day after Christmas and Easter, every holy day, and every day before and after a holy day. Sex was furthermore prohibited on Wednesdays in order to remember Ash Wednesday, Fridays to remember Good Friday, and Sundays to commemorate the resurrection. When all the math is considered, couples could look forward to marital intimacy 83 days a year. No wonder cynics have concluded that all God has to say about sex is “No.”
Yet it is clear in the Church’s own sourcebook, God’s first words about sex is “Yes.” Physical oneness is at the heart of God’s command for couples to be one flesh (Genesis 2:24). The very next verse is just as crucial: “Adam and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.”
There is a difference between nudity and nakedness. Nudity means the body is uncovered. Nakedness means the inner person (who we really are) is uncovered. Different generations have come to various conclusions about the propriety of nudity in art and public places. But every generation has come to the same conclusion about nakedness: it is terrifying.
The first human couple was completely exposed to each other, and God, and felt no fear of being judged, scrutinized or found out. They were naked-transparent in their feelings and motives.
Sin changed all that when Adam and Eve turned their backs on God’s leadership in their lives and began hiding, cowering and rationalizing. Just like us.
Jesus heals the physical and spiritual wound that makes us self-conscious about who we really are. He reclaims our bruised innocence from the Fall. Now, we can be real with God and each other!
-Rev Dr William Lewis