Naked and Unashamed

In the Garden, “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:25)

We tend to infer from the conversation in Genesis 3 that Adam and Eve were somehow physically unable to see their nakedness.  However, from the Genesis 2:25 language and later understanding that we gain from Bible study, that is not likely the case.  Not so much blinded, but oblivious to what did not matter.

In the perfect environment without storms or snow or burning sun, what need was there for clothes with two people who lived in perfect harmony and love?  They tended the Garden and cared for the animals who were naked, and they had nothing to hide from each other, from the animals, or from God.

TemptationWhat was missing from their knowledge that they could gain from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?  God had made everything “good” day by day, and in the end “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)  They knew everything good that was in creation, naming the animals and working the soil to growing delicious food, eating fruit from perfect pear and apple trees.  Now look at the name of the Tree from which Satan tempted them to eat.  What could they learn?  Only evil!

There was something to learn; something which their eyes had not seen yet, in all the “good” that God had made.  But it was not something they would enjoy as much as Satan made it sound: “You will be like God!” (Genesis 3:5)

Don’t you wish you could go back to that setting and yell to Eve, Don’t do it!  It’s a trick!  It’s a lie!  It’s what Lucifer wants to be: like God (Isaiah 14:14), and since he has failed, he wants to pull you and Adam down, too!  He wants to spoil this perfect creation and make it as evil as he is! . . . But we were not there, and likely we would not have understood any better than Eve did.

So she ate and gave to Adam to eat, also, and suddenly they did see things they had not noticed before!  It was as if their eyes were opened for the first time since creation.  In an unconscious sense, they probably knew that they were naked before, but because it did not matter, it did not register in their cognition.  It simply was something they did not think about.  But now, their awareness of their failure to obey a simple command that only required them to trust the benevolent Creator who would visit them every evening brought into sharp focus that there was nothing they could hide!  And NOW they had something that they wanted to hide!

Adam and Eve3How the devil must have laughed and jumped with sadistic glee at the success of his deceit.  He grinned as he saw their futile attempts to sew fig leaves together.  He laughed as he heard the Creator coming to visit them in the Garden.  Because he was without understanding of God’s unbounded mind and ignorant of His eternal plan, he thought he had dealt a terrible blow to God.

Ever since, we have worn clothes.  Every society (with the exception of a few nudist nuts) has required some kind of cover for the body.  Add the mess that came after the flood with snows and rain and hail, and clothes became necessary for most of us most of the time just to survive the damaged environment.  But apart from protection from the weather, we have always worn clothes, and societies have developed complex systems of clothes to express rank and social importance.

Only in the marriage relationship is nudity acceptable (or under a doctor’s care, but that’s for another blog).  We usually marry at 20-30 years old and most of us have accumulated a lot of emotional baggage by then.  How do two flawed people with so many things in their past that they would prefer to hide, stand naked and unashamed?  And what about when we get out of shape or age begins to change how nice things looked on our wedding day?  Can we return to “naked and unashamed” or are we always going to hide until the end of days?

Gift of Sex.jpgIn The Gift of Sex by Penner and Penner, the authors make a case for marriage being a place of safety and exposure.  They note that sexuality is part of God’s plan, not a deviation from it.  “The Bible portrays sex as a symbol of the relationship between God and His people . . . The husband-wife sexual relationship is used throughout Scripture to symbolize the God-man relationship.”  They provide astute advice about body image and how to deal with body issues in a loving, mutually supportive and realistic context that removes the pressure from having to be a beauty-pageant winner or a world-class body builder.

The key of it is their perspective on mutual submission to the Lord of Life.  Jesus restores purity where there once was only shame and disgrace.  Like the father in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-24) He welcomes us into His family with open arms and forgiveness for all our past; such complete forgiveness as though the sin never happened!

God cannot reverse time and change what you did in the past.  He cannot restore your virginity; He cannot remove the marks left in your mind from rape or immoral behavior; He cannot go back to the Garden of Eden and remove the fruit from Adam’s and Eve’s hands.  What He can do is make you sexually pure again.  He can bring you into His garden of love, grace and forgiveness, and even though you know the difference between good and evil, He can guide you into discovering all that is not just good, but “very good,” again.  You can stand before Him and your spouse, “naked and unashamed.”

For additional understanding see Paul David Tripp’s article here: 10 Things You Should Know About Sex In a Broken World.

 

The Second Week of Sex

Last week I discussed some of what makes a marriage a marriage as opposed to a business relationship.  The truth is that the love and respect a husband and wife provide each other shows up in all aspects of their life, not just sex.  However, sex is the distinctive that makes the marriage relationship most different from all others.  It is an intertwining of pleasures that is forbidden outside the marriage because that would cause hurt, confusion, distrust and possibly disease.

2018-10-21 Second Week of SexIn Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ book, Love and Respect, he presents the idea that just as a woman is wired to give and understand love, a man is wired to give and understand respect.  He notes wisely that “the journey to a godly, satisfying marriage is never over.”  This is an ongoing relationship that must be tended much as one would tend a garden.  You cannot pull out weeds and plant seeds once and leave the garden alone for years and expect good crops every fall.  In the same way, a couple cannot say their vows, experience a good relationship at the start of their marriage, and expect it will always continue that way if they never give it attention.

Using the premise of Ephesians 5:33, “each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband,” he notes that most of us readily agree to the idea that love should be unconditional.  He then says respect should also be unconditional!  Most of us, even men, react against this idea, because we have been trained culturally to think that respect must be earned.  However, that is not necessarily the case.  In the military a person is “respected” because of the number of bars on his/her uniform.  He or she may be a jerk of a person, but we treat them respectfully because of the official position.

Before anyone gets too excited or angry that he is advocating a military style marriage, please rest assured that he balances this with the husband’s responsibility to love his wife.  What Eggerichs finds interesting is that husbands are never told to respect their wives just as wives are never told to love their husbands.  He figures it is because of the way God created each of us, male and female, and wired us to see the world differently.  The “blue hearing aid and blue sunglasses” a husband wears mean that he hears and sees things differently than his wife who wears a “pink hearing aid and sunglasses,” and vice versa.  I will not give a complete book report here, but encourage you, if you find this intriguing, to get a copy of his book and consider what you find in it to be true (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

After dealing with the basic attitudes toward marriage and the need to come back again and again to weed-pulling, seeding, pruning and all the other regular features of gardening, let’s address the sexual union of a husband and wife.  I encourage you to get a copy of The Gift of Sex by Clifford and Joyce Penner to explore their thoughts.  Remember, neither Adam or Eve, nor your husband or wife, came up with the concept of sex.  It was the Creator’s idea and He planned it to be a source of unity, procreation, safety, and pleasure.  “Our maleness and femaleness, our sexuality is not something added on or part of our sinful natures; it is part of the original perfect creation of mankind. The Bible portrays sex as a symbol of the relationship between God and His people.”

This text builds on Eggerichs’ foundation that marriage should effect a mutuality of personalities, not a place for “standing up for my rights.”  The commitment of a godly husband is to be to his wife like Jesus is to the Church; ready and willing to die for her.  Not just in a crisis moment of an assault, but in everyday decisions of how to treat her when you are sitting down to supper, opening the mail, cleaning the house.  It is not an easy thing to die to oneself as Jesus did on the cross, but that is what a husband is called to do; to put aside his wishes and meet his wife’s deepest needs.

In the same way, a wife is not to assert nor usurp authority and hen-peck a husband.  She is to submit to his authority as the Church should do to Christ.  And again, not just in a crisis, but in everyday things like going fishing, helping with the lawn care or walking the dog.  As noted, it is not an easy thing to die to oneself, but that is what a godly wife is called to do; to put aside her wishes and meet her husband’s deepest needs.

Then comes the conundrum! “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” (1 Corinthians 7:4)  One wonders if Paul was just setting us up for an argument!  Who is in charge!?  What does a husband do whose wife does not want to have sex?  What does a wife do whose husband wants to have sex all the time?

Paul lays down some guidelines in 1 Corinthians 7, but very little specifics.  That is because every couple is different.  For some, the “limited time” of 1 Corinthians 7:5 may be a couple days or even hours.  For others it may be months or even years.  However, a couple should “come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”  And it should be recognized that such abstinence within a marriage should come from “mutual agreement.”  The gist here is that there is communication in a marriage about sex.  For many, this is as foreign as speaking Latin!

Just as Adam and Eve were “naked and unashamed,” a husband and wife must learn to communicate without shame.  We are supposed to be getting ready for a new Paradise in which there is no shame, and marriage provides one of the best testing grounds to see how well we are preparing. (Not the only one, for sure, as Paul addresses those who are not married as being no less prepared for holiness.)  But for those who are married, consider reading The Gift of Sex by Penner and Penner, and again, see what you find in there to be true (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Next week, we will discuss a distinctly “guy phenomenon” (mostly) of the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil.

 

Three Weeks of Sex

If you have come here hoping to find lurid script or lewd pictures, please do not leave frustrated.  Stick around and read the following blog about what marriage is supposed to be and you may find you did not come here by accident simply because of the title, but destined by a Divine appointment.  These are important ideas anyone considering marriage should know.  This is not comprehensive as there are many good books covering this material, but my 1000-word blog might get you started on a good path.  Next week I will discuss issues for satisfying sex and the third week will describe the difference between lust and temptation to lust.

Consider that most of what married couples do for each other can be hired out without serious consequences and without judgment from God.  I hire a young man to do my lawn mowing and paid someone to replace my gutters.  A couple could hire a maid to fix meals or a housekeeper to clean.  Professional ‘organizers’ can come to your home to do everything from sorting your library to setting your computer files in order.  Nannies can take over most, if not all, of the discipline and raising of children.  A man and woman not married to each other can take a necessary road trip and even sleep in the same hotel room without sinning.  Not that I am recommending any of these options!  Just laying them out there to show what makes a marriage relationship different from the one you have with your landscaper, nanny, or business associate.

There is only one function of a husband or wife that is not a payable one without incurring significant problems: sex.  The problems come even in so-called “open marriages,” where trust is defeated, security destroyed, and personalities are warped.  The Designer of marriage knew what He was doing.

Sex was not attached to Adam’s and Eve’s sin; it was not why they were expelled nor is it part of the punishment.  It was not even their idea!  The God Who Is There came up with the idea and gave the command and description of sexual union in marriage before the fall (Genesis 2:21-25).  The two dimensions of marriage were evident right then:
1. “That is why a man leaves his father and mother . . .” – social and legal dimensions.
2. . . . “and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” – personal and relational dimensions.

The social and legal implications are complex but can be summarized to say that every society has held certain regulations for marriage, whether it was as simple as Isaac bringing Rebekah into his mother’s tent (Genesis 24:67) or as complicated as the negotiations between European countries to marry their royals.  There is a social side which is to say that the couple is recognized as an exclusive relationship by the society in which they live.  This has usually been supported by legal constraints that rewarded marriage with special rights and privileges and penalized violations of whatever vows were promised in the ceremony.

The personal and relational implications begin with a husband and wife entering an exclusive physical relationship.  No society has endured more than a few years that allowed any man or woman to share any member of the opposite sex he or she wished.  The sex act has always been recognized as the epitome of the marriage relationship, i.e. what makes the marriage a marriage.

Adultery (sex with someone who is married to another) and fornication (sex with someone who is not married) are both condemned as abnormal behavior which the Designer did not plan.  Yet the drive for sexual satisfaction has been at the root of innumerable conflicts between husbands and wives as well as the cause of wars and plagues.

The Bible is very clear that sexual immorality should not have any part of the life of a Christ-follower (Proverbs 6:20-35; Romans 13:13; Colossians 3:5).  At the same time, it elevates the sexual act to more than just a physical experience (1 Corinthians 6:16-20; Ephesians 5:31-32).  The Holy Spirit is somehow present in the physical union of two people even if they do not want Him to be.  The result of immorality is to twist something that is supposed to be a human representation of spiritual realities into a defiled temple.  There is no case for having sex and not having consequences, even if no child results from the union, even if they do not know each other’s names and never see each other again!  The damage to God’s temple is done in a way that no other sin effects!

James brings an equality to sins that we have a difficult time understanding.  He says “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law” (James 2:10-11).  The focus of James is on Who the offended party is when we sin, as we tend to rank sins by offensiveness to our senses.  But there is definitely a difference in the characteristics of sins and their consequences (See John 19:11 and Mark 3:29).  Sexual immorality is thus condemned by the Bible and immoral practitioners are in serious danger of missing eternal life (Revelation 22:15).

Sexual union is recognized in the Bible as the plan for married couples whether procreation is part of the package or not (Proverbs 18:22; Hebrews 13:4; Ephesians 5:25-33).  The Ephesians passage is the basis of Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ excellent book, Love and Respect, to which I will refer more fully next week.  The essence of it is that a husband is to unconditionally love his wife and a wife is to unconditionally respect her husband.

Part of the Good News is the redemption of marriages that changes them into models of Christ and His Church, just as much as it is about His redemption of all the evil we do before we become Christ-followers.  Many believers have noted, after deciding to follow Jesus, how events of their past without Christ were woven into their lives so that the very sins that the devil wanted to use to destroy them became the leverage to turn them to the Lord.  He can redeem your marriage as well and bring you to a place of peace and satisfaction that you have not known before.

Next week, in our Second Week of Sex we will discuss Love and Respect in more detail from Dr. Eggerichs’ book.

Just A Weaver
by Benjamin Malacia Franklin

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;

And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent

And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful

In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.