Genesis 2:25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Genesis 3:8-13 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
I’ve been listening to that anxious dialogue in our world right now about sexual assault, abuse, rape and I have been at the same time thinking about Genesis chapters 2 and 3. Genesis 2 tells us of a wonderful garden within which human beings walk with God in the cool of the evening and men and women flourish in safety and trust—not only in God but in one another. Genesis 2:25 makes the astounding claim that the first couple is naked and not ashamed.
They are the representative humans representing all of humanity in relation with God and one another. There is no assault, there is no taking of what is not given, there is no fear and there is no shame. Human beings are free from the brokenness and suffering that will later come through sin and the sin system.
In Genesis 1:26-28 they were called to image God and reign in the Earth, filling it—creating families, who would create communities who would create nations. As agents of God, the first humans were to act in union with the one who is completely good and just and holy. And God’s people were naked and not ashamed.
But sin entered the idyllic world and the first act was to hide and cast blame in Genesis 2:8-13 in which God asks the man why he is hiding. The man says, “I was afraid because I was naked.” And then he cast blame for his actions toward the woman. And the woman said, I was deceived, blaming the serpent.
It’s curious to me that when humans sin they seek to cover themselves by casting blame onto someone else. It is the result of the shame we feel because we have been exposed and are “naked” and we need to hide from our own awareness of what we did and from God. We move into what is called in the therapy world, “denial.” In denial, we can keep the idealized pictures of ourselves and our own goodness while casting the blame outward toward another human being or another group or even another tribe. We scapegoat so we don’t need to look at our own sin or our own complicity with the sin system.
After this story in the Bible we read about the disharmony that the first man and the first woman experience when we read that the woman would desire her husband but he would rule over her. And I feel the pounce of sin as I read, the power dynamics and the need for control—so that once again our own sin and complicity with sin is not exposed. And the world spirals downward with violence between brothers, and the subsequent brokenness that follows.
What’s happening today around sexual abuse, assault and rape is no different than what happened in the first chapters of the Bible. Perpetrators deny, and blame and seek to cover their “nakedness.” This is about the the #metoo movement and the president’s shadowed life and about the priest abuse in the Catholic church and the exposures of abuse in other parts of the Evangelical Christian world. It’s also crept into our supreme court dialogues. We are naked and we are ashamed and we seek to cover up—blame victims and other people groups so we can escape notice and maintain our pictures that we are good people.
I feel deeply grieved by the exploitation, abuse and assault in our world and the complicity of those who stand by and say nothing. Who knew about the abuse of children in the Catholic church—many in authority. Who knew about the abuse in the evangelical churches—leadership teams. Who knows the truth about the president? Who knows the truth about the allegations around the supreme court nominee? The truth hopefully will come out. I see posturing and defensiveness among those seeking to cover up or blame so that their group’s power can be maintained.
We have created families, communities, churches, nations, that are affected by sin and the sin system. We still seek to cover and blame. We blame immigrants for rape when our group rapes, we blame women for coming forward with their stories, we blame, blame, blame, blame. We blame in effort to cover ourselves.
It’s interesting that when Jesus came he called for us to repent. Repentance simply means to own our sin and turn around, changing our behavior and walking in a new direction with God—once again, like we did before the fall.
And the walk to Emmaus perfectly depicts a man and his wife walking home with Jesus. This is a word picture of Cleopas and his wife Mary walking once again with God. When the three get home, they commune with one another break bread. It’s what I hunger for right now. That all things will be made right and the one who is just will bring justice.
My prayer for this world today is that we might turn to back to God and begin to walk differently—especially as people who say they walk with God.
Judgment begins in the house of the Lord. May we accept this and turn around.