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Lenten Series #4: Our Nakedness

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. [The serpent] said to the woman, “Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the tree in the garden but God did say, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

God said. God did not say. God did not mean. God allows. God does not allow. God includes this, them or a part of them, and rejects the rest.

As I write, I’m flying back home after visiting my best friend Simon and his family for a whole week in London! If there is one thing I love about long flights, it’s the free food and drinks.

I’ve already had to make a few decisions about food. I rejected the free pretzels, mainly out of respect for pretzels, and smugly ignored the cart of food for purchase, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about it. On my flight to London I got two free glasses of wine and then was offered a complementary G&T for lending my contact solution to a fellow flyer in need.

“Did God really say, “You must not eat…?”

Well beyond airplanes, this question, this conversation with the serpent has been ringing in our ears since Genesis. What must we not eat? What is allowed and disallowed? What are we allowed to consume? What is allowed to consume us? What does God consume? What does he want from us? What does he like, and more importantly who?

The issue with eating the fruit in the garden was not simply that we’d know good and evil but that we’d use the knowledge of it to judge and divide one another.

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”

This word for eyes can mean physical eyes but their eyes were certainly open already. Eyes being “opened” here is more about desire, the emotional and mental center of the humans becoming altered. The eye becomes a pinhole through which their very souls were opened and exposed to the judgement of good and evil.

Also, what is meant by “you will be like God”? Weren’t the humans already created in the image of God? And what is wrong with wisdom which discerns good from evil? By many estimations Eve would be an exemplary Christian! Also, the word used for “God” is elohim and it is a general word for god or gods. Further, the connotation is that the humans would be like gods who rule, judge and reign over and above one another. Thus their god-likeness would be unrelational, isolated and about power rather than connection.

Ultimately this “knowledge” would divide and hide humanity and breakdown all which was tov meod.

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they [judged] they were both naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”

Keep reading. The humans then judge God to be a menacing loiterer before hiding themselves behind trees to avoid his presence.

We often hear about the Good News of Jesus but here is the bad news of the Garden: We’ve become like gods who rule over, judge and condemn others, ourselves and even God.

Sin isn’t some ethereal list of don’t’s, as it’s often portrayed. Sin is nothing more than the opposite of tov meod. We sin when we divide ourselves from one another through racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia of every kind. We sin when we exclude people, and support and/or are silent in systems which oppress any human being.

The biggest shame is that the church has for centuries held up the Bible and told us that if we will eat it we will be like God, knowing good and evil. And what do we do? We use it to cover ourselves and point out the nakedness in others. Like gods we divide ourselves into good and evil, right and wrong (and we seem never to be the latter). We say God loves the sinner but hates the sin which we all know is bullshit because no one, who truly loves a person, loves only a part of them.

As Christians we must confess that we are often known first by our judgement and exclusions before we are known by our love. And for us to heal we must come to terms with the reality that much of what we call Christlikeness is really “godlikeness” – categories of good and evil we created to segregate nakedness so they dare not serve as a mirror for our own.

Let me get specific. I’ve been asked my stance on homosexuality a few times recently and maybe so have you. In short, my answer is simple, I don’t have one, because I believe stances on people are comfort fruits we eat to reassure us of our godlikeness.

So what are you eating? Is it the fruit of the gods or is it the body and blood of Jesus? Does it open your eyes to judgement or your hands to love? Does it comfort you safely away from your nakedness or does it beacon you to follow our naked Christ to the cross?

The truth is many of you reading this may feel comfortable with your nakedness and be tempted to scoff at the fully clothed. This is certainly my temptation. Any fig leaves we use to cover others are carbon copied onto us, so stripping off fig leaves is an ongoing process. The system of godlikeness is broken by Godlike love. So receive the love of God into your heart, and bear it to one another. Be freed from your judgements. It is not God who’s commanded them but the forked tongue of the serpent. Last, be patient with yourself and others in the journey of learning to love. It is our greatest work as children of God.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Amen.