In every facet or nitch of our society there are certain brands that are synonymous with success and prestige within a given arena. If I say baseball, you say _____? Did you say Yankees? If I say cell phones you probably say one of maybe two or three brands. You at least did not say Kyocera did you? I hope not.
Likewise there are certain verses of scripture that have this quality. If I say scripture verse, you say ____? Well everyone has their verses that are willingly or unwilling ingrained in their membrane. I’ve found one of those verses for me to be Philippians 4:6. Do you know it? Hint: it’s about how to get rid of anxiety.
Paul writes, “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.”
Now, there was a time that this verse conjured up a level of guilt and even shame because it always told me to DO the very thing that felt impossible, to not be anxious. For the longest time I’ve read this verse with a hermeneutic of separation. Philippians 4:6 read this way:
Don’t be anxious about anything but separate yourself from anxiety. Get rid of your anxiety by stripping it off and giving it to God.
Now Michael, what is wrong with this interpretation? If we aren’t to be anxious why is it a bad thing to get rid of it?
And here is the crux of the gospel and where we, the children of God, on this side of Genesis 2, truly need to revisit the early chapters of Genesis.
Speak of the Devil, what do we remember about the first of Genesis, specifically Genesis 3? Well it was the chapter where sin entered and humanity’s relationship with God was shattered. In Genesis 1 & 2 God and humans walked in perfect relationship together but Genesis 3 this all changes. The relationship was shattered.
The relationship was broken when the humans ate of the fruit but it was shattered when they sewed together fig leaves to hide themselves from God and from each other.
The the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD among the trees of the garden. But the LORD called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” Genesis 3:8-10.
You see, in Genesis 1 & 2 we walk with God, trusting him and his intentions for us. In our nakedness, in our vulnerability and goodness we stood shamelessly before the Lord. In Genesis 3 and beyond all humanity stands before the Lord fearful, often uneasy and suspicious of him. Have you experienced this? If you’re like me you’ve stood before the LORD knowing you desperately need him but certain he is not for you, or worse, is angry with you. Today God searches for us but we hide out of fear.
(Hand raise) What does this have to do with Philippians 4:6? Good questions. Here it is.
I think we read Philippians 4:6 like Genesis 3 humans rather than Genesis 1 & 2 humans. Instead of reading Philippians 4:6 as an invitation we often read it as a command. More specifically, instead of reading Philippians 4:6 as invitation to encounter God through anxiety we tend to read it, at best, as an invitation to encounter God separate from anxiety.
Because of this Philippians 4:6 does not spur us toward intimacy but only away from anxiety. Instead of anxiety being an opportunity to share and grow in intimacy with God it becomes an obstacle to intimacy. God calls to us, “Where are you?” and we hide because we fundamentally believe he wants us only when we are fully separated from what is shameful.
May I suggest an older way of doing it? What if we read Philippians 4:6 like Genesis 2 humans? Of course that may sound like another way of saying, “don’t be anxious. God loves you.”
But here is what we need to grasp if we want to pursue healing and step into the wholeness. What originated in the garden was not only sin but shame. Yes, we sinned and that broke relationship with God but I would say our hiding put us in a terrible spot because it separated us from what we truly needed.
In our sin we often want to hide in our shamefulness but was we need is for God to see our shamefulness.
Sin broke our relationships in the garden but shame kept them stuck in a cycle of brokenness. Anxiety, depression, habitual sin or any Genesis 3 ailment cannot be remedied with the Genesis 3 prescription of hiding.
What if instead of hiding our shamefulness (in all the holy and unholy ways we try) we invited our shame to be seen by God, by others, vulnerably and honestly? Genesis 3 humanity tends to hide or separate itself from what is shameful in order to be with God but Genesis 1 & 2 humanity invites us to stand before God with the sin and shame; to be vulnerable, honest, true, naked and unashamed.
The simplicity and “light yoke-ness” of the gospel is discovered when we stop clothing ourselves in greater spirituality and begin tearing away what veils us from God, from ourselves and from each other.
You want a spiritual practice (homework)? God back and read, meditate on Genesis 1-2 over the course of the next week. Develop a vision of life before hiding. Seek to make these two chapters a hermeneutic for the rest of Scripture. My guess is many of us have verses, chapters or whole books which we read like Genesis 3 humans. I pray you discover an older way.