“And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” (Gen. 2:25)
I think this is one of the most haunting verses in the early chapters of Scripture. What would it have been like to have no shame? None of us here know what that’s like, to have had no shame. To be completely shameless, innocent, childish.
We may catch glimpses of it in children. It seems that for a number of years they really would all prefer to just go around naked. But it fades, and shame creeps in. People are ashamed of their relatives, ashamed of failures, ashamed of sin, ashamed of weaknesses or inabilities or disabilities. We are naturally afraid. Instead of walking in the garden of God confidently, openly, cheerfully, we try to hide ourselves from God and one another.
After Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree, Genesis 3 says, “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.”
Fear and guilt and shame isolate us from God and one another. We cover up and hope no one will notice. Because of sin, people live in varying degrees of panic, terror, worry, anxiety. Almost 50% of American women take some kind of medication for anxiety and panic attacks. And this is because people still feel the need to cover their insecurity and shame with fig leaves. Some people cover their shame and fear with medication, others do it with fancy cars or hip clothing, or accomplishments at work or with hobbies, others eat too much or drink too much or use drugs or stimulants. Since Adam and Eve’s sin, all humans have felt a deep sense of shame and guilt, fear that they won’t measure up, afraid of being left out, losing, failing, letting others down. And this is because all people really are sinners. All people really do fall short, all people have not measured up. All people have rebelled against the goodness of God.
Christians are not immune to this temptation. Plenty of people use spiritual things, the very gifts of God to cover their fears. People volunteer to help the poor or lead Sunday School, people adopt extreme prayer and fasting habits, they go on missions trips or take up other causes in the name of Jesus. Just as there’s nothing wrong with fig leaves, there’s nothing wrong with prayer or Sunday School of course, it all has to do with what you’re doing with it.
Zach and Faith, you stand here today in fine clothing, and your attendants stand alongside you with ties and dresses and flowers. The guests assembled here are dressed up for this occasion as well. And this is as it should be. But as you well know there are thousands of weddings every year all over the world that are just as nice looking, even fancier, and yet many of them are full of lies and hypocrisy. Their dresses and tuxedoes are just fig leaves, covering guilt and shame and insecurity. Couples having lived together for years pretend to be innocent, drunkenness and revelry are passed off as joy and thanksgiving. Bickering families, the dead rot of bitterness, gossip, abuse, neglect, and scars that go deep fester just below the gowns and vests and flowers and champagne toasts.
You see, the problem of course is not something always immediately obvious. It’s not completely hidden either, but the wedding pictures wouldn’t usually pick up on it. The problem is really in their hearts, the problem is sin festering, eating away at their souls. But sin isn’t just a disease, it’s an enslavement, it’s tyranny. It captures people and drives them to despair, trying harder and harder to be good, to measure up, to fit in, to succeed in life. But that is the way of slavery. That’s the way of hiding, the way of fig leaves, ultimately it’s the way of fear and death.
But Jesus came to set us all free. You know this of course, but I want to remind you today on your wedding day. And when you drive off into the sunset tonight, I want you to drive off in a cloud of real glory and not something fake, not something painted on like the graffiti on your car that will wash off in the carwash. Hebrews says that the marriage bed is to be honored by all men.
That means that because of Jesus, we stand here together today asking that the Holy Spirit would fill the two of you and knit you together as one, so that your marriage bed will be a small taste of a new garden of Eden, so that your love, your intimacy may be without any shame.
This is only possible through the blood of Jesus. Jesus is able to make the foulest clean. The blood of Jesus washes away every stain. You’ve both grown up in Christian homes. You’ve been blessed with Christian parents, and many teachers and elders and friends along the way. You’ve confessed Christ and embraced Him as your Savior and King. So believe what you say you believe. Believe in the forgiveness of sins. Believe in the righteousness of Christ that clothes you. Believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of all life. Because it is precisely by this faith that you are free, you are clean.
When you know you are forgiven, when you know that you are free. You have nothing to hide, nothing to fear, for there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? You are justified, you are forgiven, you are clean, you are free. Believe this and rejoice. Believe this and let your smiles and laughter and dancing be the truth. Let your gown and tie, your flowers and rings be not fig leaves of shame but garments of righteousness and joy. And let that grace and forgiveness fill your home continually.
Zach, as you love and lead your wife, lead her in this in particular: refuse every fig leaf. As a man, you will be tempted to cover your sin and shame in particular ways. Men don’t like to look weak, men don’t like to fail or mess up, men don’t like to be wrong. So men don’t try things they’re afraid of, men don’t put themselves in vulnerable situations, and thus men don’t like to admit their sin. Men tend to minimize their own sin and blame circumstances or other people. It was the woman you gave me, I was really tired, the sun got in my eyes, etc. And men tend to hide behind their accomplishments. I may have gotten angry but look at this cool gun I bought. I may have lusted, but at least I work hard and pay my bills. But Zach, don’t cover your shame or guilt with any of the gifts of God. Don’t minimize sin or shrug it off by saying everyone has bad days or make excuses that you were just tired or hungry. Fight sin by confessing your own sin, by taking responsibility for your actions and for the state of your home honestly. This is what it means to be the head: you get to die first. Show your wife and children how to die to sin, and the joy of forgiveness, the joy of walking without shame, clothed in Jesus.
Faith, as you submit to your husband and adorn his home in beauty, do so because you are a daughter of the King, without fear, without worry, without shame. As a woman you will be tempted to cover your sin and shame in particular ways. Refuse every fig leaf. Like men, women don’t like to be vulnerable or exposed. You don’t want to be thought of as foolish or inadequate or lazy. But you may be tempted to cover up those fears by either nagging your husband, looking over his shoulder constantly and making sure he’s doing what he needs to do to protect you, or the opposite extreme which is to never saying anything for fear that you might upset him, might sound complaining or fearful or nagging. But you are his helper. He needs your honest, gracious, cheerful input. Don’t try to cover shame or insecurity with any of the gifts of God. Don’t sweep sin under the rug and hope it will just go away. Don’t try to cope with worry through dieting or exercise or some decorating fad. Don’t place all your hopes or dreams in Zach either. Remember that you are already clothed in the righteousness of Christ; He’s your Savior and Lord, you are clean, you are safe in Him. You can submit yourself to Zach because Jesus is standing right behind him.
Zach and Faith, may your home be an Eden, and may your marriage bed be a garden where you love one another without shame, and may that peace and joy fill your home so that it becomes a place where many find refuge, where many are blessed, where many hungry are fed, where many naked are clothed, where shame is always swallowed up by glory because Jesus is there with you.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.