Naked and Unashamed

The “Paradise” part of Genesis – chapters 1 and 2 before “The Fall” – concludes with this potent phrase:

25 And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.

It’s really easy to skip over this verse, mainly because we have no idea what to do with it or how it is relevant. I find it interesting that the original design for humanity did not include clothing. We kind of assume clothing now, especially in a lot of segments of Christianity where sex was/is treated as – here’s that other word – shameful.

Naked

The fact that they were naked could be looked at in two ways. In the more specific case, sexuality was not something to be afraid of. They were created to be one flesh, and so they were, with nothing getting in the way. I had a housemate who had the tendency to occasionally go into questions that nobody else even thought of, and he went ahead a couple of times wondering whether we are supposed to be nudists. I wonder if it is like eating meat; the original design was for humans and animals to eat plants only and prophetic imagery of the completed Kingdom suggest the same will be true then. I guess you could argue that the original design would have still had clothing if there were more than Adam and Eve there, but I do think it is accurate and valuable to think of the original design as being without clothes.

Regardless, I do think we should take from this that our bodies were never meant to be something we are ashamed of. Those bodies were part of the original very good creation, and there was no problem with Adam and Eve showing them off to each other. I’m not suggesting we become nudists, of course, but we definitely can learn from that principle in how we look at our own bodies and the bodies of others.

Unashamed

In the more generic sense, though, and I think the more important one, we need to consider what it means that the original design was for a world without shame. Not shame over sex and not shame over anything else. It makes a lot of sense once we skip ahead to chapter 3 and learn that the original sin was eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In distinguishing good and evil, there was now room for shame (as well as for pride). I’ll get into that more when I reach those passages in this study, but for now it is very important to note that shame is not a product of God’s will. This should have an impact on how we approach our own shame and keep us as far away as possible from shaming others.

Jamie the Very Worst Missionary recently wrote this about shame:

It was a Christian who told me that I deserved what I’d gotten. I deserved to be stared at and embarrassed and judged. I should be ashamed. Shame is from God, they said, and God was trying to get me to obey His rules by punishing me. I mean, I should consider myself lucky that He waived the pregnancy wand and not the herpes wand. Lucky. They tried to use shame to draw me to Jesus, telling me that I was so young and so pregnant because I was a sinner….

Jesus stands on the side of the broken, the outcast, the scandalous. He sees us at the very core of creation, naked and unashamed, meant to walk in a garden now locked to humanity. He sees us, hungry for knowledge and starved for love, eating from the first tree in front of our faces, plucking the fruits of deceit and selfish ambition, snacking on lust, stuffing ourselves with greed, sucking away at vanity. And still He comes to us without condemnation – without shame.
Shame is a byproduct of a dying world. It’s a shackle that binds us to our brokenness. It is Shame who first points a finger and cries out, “Look at you! You’re NAKED!”, and tells you to run and hide. Shame warns you to cover up, hide your junk, don’t get caught. Shame clothed us in fig leaves and nestled us in the bushes; shame led the way right out of Eden, and still it barricades the door.
If you believe shame is the pathway to obedience, I’m sorry, but your gospel is twisted. Shame is no friend of Jesus.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.