Last night we took some time to explore a narrow but important topic. Here are the notes:
This study stems from a time when I was reading Leviticus in my daily Bible reading. I noticed, in Leviticus 18, that the phrase “view the nakedness” was used for commands regarding sexuality. My thought was, why did the Spirit inspire Moses to write it that way? Why use the word “nakedness” to refer to these things? This sent me on a trip through the scriptures to see what I would learn thinking about this question.
1. Genesis 2:25
Originally, the first two humans were in a state of nakedness. But they had no “shame.” So they existed, viewing each other’s nakedness, and there was nothing wrong with it, and nothing uncomfortable about it.
2. Genesis 3:7, 10-11, 21
The first thing humans realize after their sin is that they are naked, and now, naked in terms of being shameful and exposed. Their first instinct is to cover their nakedness. In verse 21 God confirms that, yes–now, this is the right instinct.
3. So now, to look at someone’s nakedness is to view them in their state of being spiritually exposed, without God’s protection. It is to view their shame as a fallen human being. See for instance the story of Noah and his sons in Genesis 9:21-23.
4. We see this in the New Testament as well, where nakedness is a metaphor for spiritual poverty and shame. See Revelation 3:17-18.
1: Leviticus 18, and its use of “looking at nakedness” to refer to intercourse that is outside of God’s design, shows us that any sexuality outside of biblical-defined marriage is not loving. I am not loving another person by uncovering them without following God’s commands; I am shaming them. I am viewing them outside of God’s grace, and exposing them as the sinful person they are. And if I do it for my own pleasure, how unlike God am I in that moment? How far from him am I at that point? Could we even fathom a God who would find it entertaining to look at us at our worst?
2: This leads us to a second application: thinking about all the nudity in our popular culture. What are we (as a culture) doing when we use nudity as a form of entertainment or gratification? What really is pornography and the obsession with skin in our culture? Consider, for instance, Isaiah 57:8.
If we’re honest and scriptural, we’ll admit that the only being in the universe other than humans who derives pleasure from exposing human nakedness is Satan. Satan loves to expose humans as small and guilty and weak, and he laughs at it all.
And what about the people who put others up to this exposing of themselves for profit and pleasure? Whose work are they doing?
And… what about when people get to the point that do it willingly, exposing their nakedness for power or fame or money? They think they are becoming liberated, but what are they really doing? What does Beyonce think she’s doing when she shakes it on stage next to her husband? What does he think is happening? And what is really happening?
And what about the legions of women who, right now, stand in lines to get on camera naked? What’s really going on? When we hear of these things, we should sense the great shame that Satan is bringing on us–the total fraud he’s perpetrating–and we humans are helping him do it!
And finally, when a whole culture gets together to get naked, and tell God that he just needs to be OK with it, we need to recognize what’s really happening. It is exactly the same thing as if Adam and Eve turned around that day when God made the coverings for them, and said, “no God, we’re good. Check us out, just the way we are! You just need to be happy with us like this.” It is absolute rebellion for humans to disrobe and say it’s ok.
Which leads us to two further observations…
5. The one place where we are allowed to view the nakedness of another human being in the way referred to in Leviticus is in marriage.
We may not view someone’s nakedness unless we have entered into a God-ordained covenant with them. This covenant is binding for life, which means we have the safety of guaranteed non-rejection. In other words, since nakedness is a sign of our shame before God, we can only experience it again without shame when there is a covering of protection given by God, a covering of safety and acceptance, of total commitment, and above all, of love. Only when two people have vowed to love and honor each other for life may they view each other’s nakedness. (See 1 Corinthians 7:1-5)
In our messed up world, Marriage is a space God has opened up where a whole different set of rules can operate. It’s like a bubble of time that floats to us from the garden of Eden, something pristine where we can taste things we’ve otherwise forgotten—the unstained, unashamed freedom of two people fully committed to each other’s best interests. And with the teaching Paul gives us in Ephesians 5 we can go even further—Christian marriage is not only innocent but also righteous, because husbands view wives as Christ views the church, covered by grace, and therefore any flaws she does have are taken care of by Jesus. They’re not seen any more.
6. The final state of humanity is to be clothed. (See Revelation 19:8.) And not as simply a covering for sin, but now as an expression of righteousness. God takes innocence, and through the fall of man in our sin, upgrades it to righteousness.
Our God is a god who takes all our shame, and hides it with his love that covers a multitude of sins. And he only ever views us through that righteousness. He loves us too much to leave us exposed.