God created the world good, and He created it for man to enjoy in communion with Him. God created trees and leaves and the rest of creation to be constant reminders of the presence of God so that in our enjoyment of them, we would meet and commune with our Father.
But when our first parents sinned, their initial response was to take what God intended as communion and seek to cover their sin and shame and hide. This is silly. This is insane. If creation is for communion with God, this is a little bit like trying to hide from your family while sitting at the dinner table. But people do it all the time. And it’s no good to object by saying, ‘But I’m sitting at the dinner table aren’t I?’ Yes, but what’s with the frown and the snippy tone? And by the way, the more strenuous the objection, the more suspicious we all get. You’re here, but you don’t want to be here. You’re here, but you’re trying to pretend you’re not.
However ridiculous this seems, Paul says this is what all idolatry and rejection of God amounts to: “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things… who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Rom. 1:22, 24)
In other words, we take the gifts of God and try to cover our sin with them. We try to hide from God in them. And we do this necessarily by obsessing over them. We sew fig leaves together to cover our shame, and when someone asks, we protest that God said fig leaves were good. Aren’t we free to make fig leaf clothes? Aren’t we supposed to take dominion? Isn’t Jesus Lord of all? But when you start making rules about the exact hem lines of the fig leaf skirts and pacing the perimeter of the shady thicket with a furrowed brow, we kind of want to know what’s eating you…. or what you’ve been eating [little joke].
But this is what sin always does. It creates shame and begs us to hide from God and one another in His creation, in His gifts, in the very places where He has invited us to commune with Him. And so, just to take a few examples at complete random, why are we not just a tad bit more jumpy with people who are obsessed with liturgy or sacramental theology or evangelism or gospel-centered preaching or community groups or Doug Wilson books or Mark Driscoll sermons or the Vision Forum catalog or food fads or vitamins? Why are you pacing the perimeter, man? What’s got your skivvies in a bundle? Or better, what’s got your robe in a bundle? Or, in some cases, what’s with those skinny jeans, man?
The natural, inborn tendency of people is to take good, God-given gifts, the very gifts He means for us to use to commune with Him, and then to try to hide from Him. So pick your poison, pick your fig leaves, pick your shady thicket: whether it’s praise bands and modern worship music or covenant headship or family-integrated gymnastics or liturgy or sacraments, we need to be far more suspicious of our own hearts and far less suspicious of God’s goodness. This is why evangelical protestants who convert to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy or go Indy-Emergent-Church-Hipster are frequently asking to go to Hell.
When God comes walking in the garden, when He comes in the Spirit of the day to meet with us, it doesn’t do us any good to point out that He made the fig leaves or that He gave us the sacraments. Nice work, Sherlock.
One way to test whether you are filling your life with opportunities to commune with God or whether you are actually just hiding from God in all the busy-ness, in all the Christian clutter, is to ask, “How would you feel if everyone around you knew about your sin?” If your sin was exposed, if your heart was really laid bare and opened for the world to see, how would you feel?
Every descendant of Adam and Eve would feel humbled. There’s no one who wouldn’t instinctively feel the bite of their sin, but the difference between those who are communing and those who are covering is immense. The difference is the sharp relief of forgiveness. When someone walks with God, they know down in their gut that God already knows, and that God has already forgiven them in Jesus. It wouldn’t make the exposure any more emotionally happy, but it’s not like the consequences could be any worse. When you’ve already been made right with God, the worst is over.
So come clean. Come into the light. Let Jesus heal you, and stop clutching at your fig leaves. He already knows that you’re naked.
HT: Doug Wilson has been trying to teach me most of this for years, but I’m a slow learner. Thanks, Doug. [And if I’ve gotten it all wrong, sorry for dragging you into this!]