Fig Leaves: Why Are We So Ashamed Of Ourselves?
I wish to talk to you today about a sensitive subject that is at the center of much consternation in many believers’ lives. The subject of this essay is physical intimacy. There is a great deal of misunderstanding about physical intimacy in Christian circles and consequently people needlessly suffer because they feel that their intimate nature does not mesh well with the holy God they serve.
It is written in Genesis 3:7,8,
“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.”
In the beginning it was very good
Originally, when God created everything in the world He said it was very good. Therefore, if everything was very good this also included physical intimacy. However, when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit all of a sudden they knew they were naked and sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. The question we need to answer is, “Why were their bodies all of a sudden shameful?” Moreover, “Why did the knowledge of good and evil cause them to hide from view what God considered to be very good?”
I believe the answers to these two questions are at the core of what causes many believers to live in shame and condemnation. We must, as it were, re-examine why the fig leaves were sewn in the first place in order to understand where our collective view of intimacy went wrong. It is only after understanding the origins of shame that we will be able to allow God to help us regain a proper perspective of human intimacy.
Do those who serve the Devil have all the fun?
In the eyes of the world the “best” intimacy is often times characterized as dirty, forbidden, and sinful. If you believe the media those who are evil have all the fun while those who believe in God are miserable, unfulfilled and limited in this area. Unfortunately, this perception of Christianized intimacy is somewhat true for while there are believers who have very fulfilling intimate lives many do not. Furthermore, there are conservative perceptions of what Godly relations should and should not be. Often time’s people carry a lot of guilt because they think that their intimate nature is somehow sinful. Many Christians still wish, as it were, to hide themselves from view because they think “they” are shameful
The origins of shame
I believe that through partaking of the knowledge of good and evil that which was once good became shattered and began to viewed as shameful. In the Garden of Eden I do not believe there was such a concept as the separation of body, soul, and spirit but rather man, just like God, was one. Moreover, there was no division of the human spirit and soul. Mankind was in perfect union with God and there was never any conflict between his soul and spirit because they harmonized in all areas. Our bodies simply were an instrument through which our spirit/soul interacted with this present creation. Whatever our spirit/soul did in union with God was pure and holy.
Unfortunately, when we sinned by disobeying God’s commandment our souls became at odds with our spirits and thus our flesh obeyed not God but our own earthy desires. There is conflict between our spirit and soul to this very day. We are constantly torn between heavenly desires and earthly lusts. This is the root of conflict and every war we see in this creation grows out of this struggle. There will never be peace on earth until there is peace between the spirit of man and his soul. Until we come back into oneness with God and ourselves this world will never be at rest.
Body, soul, and spirit
Eve’s very act of reaching for the forbidden fruit broke that perfect unity of spirit and flesh. What was in fact created good was used to do something evil. Eve’s soul commanded her body to do something sinful causing her to view her own flesh as shameful. Likewise, when Adam also ate the forbidden fruit he to became ashamed of his body too. This, in turn, resulted in Adam’s and Eve’s desire to hide their physical bodies behind aprons made of fig leaves. We assume that Adam and Eve hid just their reproductive organs but the Bible does not say that. The act of using their flesh inappropriately in disobedience to their Father is the root of mankind’s shame. It is only as we again come back into unity with His Holy Spirit that the shame begins to lift.
In a more narrow sense, the root of sexual shame is the inappropriate use of our bodies. When people act out in inappropriate ways even though it “feels good” they are ashamed of using their flesh contrary to the way in which God intended. This is why sexual sin is so closely associated with drugs and alcohol. Such substances make it easier to numb our consciousnesses so that we can use our bodies in ways we otherwise instinctively know are not proper.
To the pure all things are pure
In reality our flesh is neither good nor bad but simply obeys either our soul or our spirit. Depending of which part of our shattered psyche we yield our body to our “actions” are ether Godly or ungodly. Therefore, the same action can both be godly or ungodly depending on whether our flesh is obeying the will of the Spirit or the will of our souls.
Considered shameful, the church restricts most intimancy because of what “might happen.” Therefore there is the kind of paranoia of the “intimate” which causes Christians to construct safety barriers around this troublesome area. We feel the more rules we have and try to obey the better we protect ourselves from immorality. While this type of legalistic behavior often keeps us from sinning outwardly it ultimately does not solve the underlying problem.
Rules do not help rule breakers
In fact, piling on rules and regulations merely compounds the inward problems of lust, condemnation, and self-hatred. It is analogous to water building up behind a dam with the outlet gates closed. As the water rises the pressure increases and because there is nowhere for the water to go the dam must be built ever higher in order to hold back the flood. Eventually something’s got to give. Unfortunately, when the dam breaks swift destruction follows and not just a simple release.
What is sexual lust except the desire to inappropriately express God given passion? Many men and women lust simply because they cannot fulfill their passions in a godly manor. Christian doctrine so limits physical intimacy that many men and women are literally driven to sin.
The Spirit of God gives true liberty
The common Christian looks at Catholic priests who repress their God given intimate natures and say to themselves, “that is silly, God does not demand that we deny ourselves in those areas and has made ways to express ourselves in a proper way. There is no need to be celibate”. God looks at the Christian that look at the catholic priests and says, “The freedom that I have for you is greater than the freedom you have in relation to that priest”.
Many times when rules and regulations fail our hearts also despair and we loose hope. We feel that we are weak and do not love God enough to overcome temptation. We feel unworthy and instead of seeking solace and forgiveness in the presence of God we hide ourselves from Him. Many times Christians silently suffer these types of trials even while attending church. Even though they feel horrible inside they smile to each other as they agree that God is good and all is going on well in their lives. Truthfully, the shame of the garden is still with us in a very real and powerful way.
Don’t dam up your heart
The solution to these sorts of problems is not to build the dam higher but rather to release the pressure behind it in a Godly way. God never meant for mankind to be ashamed for what he created was very good. Our intimate nature and ability to bring forth life was in fact the crowning achievement of this present creation. The re-integration of our intimate natures into our spiritual lives is the only way in which we can satisfy our God given desires while at the same time avoiding using what He made inappropriately.
How do we put this knowledge into practice? Originally our bodies were obedient to our spirit/souls which were in total submission to God. Thus, whatever we did was pure. The solution to our need for intimacy is to learn to let the Holy Spirit guide us in all areas of intimacy.
What God created is very good
The Devil never created anything but only corrupted what God made. One of the chief areas Satan has tried to make his own through corruption is physical intimacy. To corrupt something means to degrade it and therefore it is reasonable to assume that original Godly human intimacy was and still is far superior to what the Devil offers today. Eve, being perfect, must have been a vision to behold. Pure intimacy reigned in true freedom then.
The restoration of the Feast of Tabernacles historically has had an intimate component. Down through the ages when God’s people come back into alignment with Him they also tend to re-integrate their souls and spirits too. Thus, their intimate nature, which they have denied for so long, also comes back into alignment with His Holy Spirit. This in turn allows them to express intimacy in ways that God originally intended and fulfills the longing of their souls in a pure and holy way.
There will always be Pharisees
Unfortunately, those who disparage such moves of God’s Spirit incorrectly label these forerunners as immoral and hedonistic. They cannot understand that these people, who are once again becoming one with God, are simply experiencing intimacy as God originally intended it. Seeing such a degree of freedom in human intimacy within a Christian context causes many to assume that it must be of the Devil. I wish we had writings from such groups to compare with what the Holy Spirit is reveling today. Perhaps a thread of revelation in this area, extending from just after the church was formed in Jerusalem to our present day, would emerge.
It seems odd to me that people freely agree that given the choice between denying Christ and death one should, however difficult, choose martyrdom. Yet, when the Holy Spirit goads them to do something as natural as holding another human being of the opposite sex, they resist. If God asks martyrs to sacrifice their very bodies cannot He ask you to hug another human being?
I feel Jesus in your touch
People need human touch. We all learned to receive love and assurance this way from the time we were infants. People desire to be held and comforted. Touch equals love. There are times when those around us are hurting and need something as simple as a hug yet in many churches this simple form of expression is discouraged or even forbidden. Yet, does not even Paul say to greet one another with a “holy kiss?”
To the pure all things are pure. If you are motivated by the Holy Spirit, hugging someone, even of the opposite gender, is by definition also pure. Therefore, if the Holy Spirit in you desires to show intimacy towards a person there is nothing inappropriate in the action. This is the basic principle that should govern all intimate interactions between Christian’s regardless of marital status. If people actually “walk in the spirit” in this way the body of Christ will flourish in holy love and every need will be met.
Oh no! Where are your fig leaves?
Many church leaders fear human intimacy. Form experience, Pastors know that most people motivated by selfish desires. For instance, many pastors restrict hugging (if it is allowed at all) to a friendly side hug. A embrace must be of short duration because some in the past have used this freedom for inappropriate behavior. Therefore, the sins of the few restrict the freedoms of the many. Consequently, many lack the physical reassurance that they came to expect and rely upon as children.
For example, many single women in our churches faithfully serve God year after year. Married women consider single women something of a pariah. Married women keep single women under strict observation. At all costs, single females must stray into inappropriate behavior with bleachers or married men. They become the intimacy police while they go home to their spouse.
People have real needs
What about their needs for intimacy? Is God not sympathetic to a woman’s desires for closeness and affection? If there are no suitable single men in the church are their needs to remain unfulfilled indefinitely? Through lack of opportunity are we forcing them to be nuns? Under our present system of rules and regulations single women cannot engage in male friendships unless under strictly controlled conditions. Greet one another with a holy kiss except if you are a single woman.
Such “Holy Cows” abound in Christianity. However, these are the specific areas where people are most in need. Let the Holy Spirit lead us into His understanding and stop listening to our natural minds.
Looks can be deceiving
We have all focused too long on what is outwardly holy rather than what is inwardly pure. We have judged too many by a set of doctrines that have, as their origin, a skewed view of intimacy. A legalistic and fearful church has condemned others for merely being human. As the saying goes, “Looks can be deceiving”. Don’t judge the flesh by the flesh but rather allow God to judge through the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit says it is good then we trust His decision. Remember, Pharisees look outwardly pure but Jesus Himself said they were full of all unseemliness.
Back to the Garden
In conclusion, those who love and serve God will soon begin to remove their fig leaves. Mankind will stand before their Father as originally intended. Shame will begin to leave us as we yield to His Holy Spirit. Rather than using our bodies to reach for the forbidden fruit we will lay hold of the tree of life. Our actions line up with God as we begin to walk in the Spirit thus regaining our innocence.
God meeting our needs through the Body of Christ
This in turn will have many and varied consequences that may confound those who do not walk in the Spirit. Christ meets, many of the desires which we thought were sin, in ways we cannot yet imagine. The boundaries which generations of well meaning (yet misguided) leaders mandated simply melt away. No one lacks because the body of Christ supplies what each member needs. What the world judges as inappropriate will, when led by the Spirit, become holy. Our deepest desires, though now strenuously hidden, will be fulfilled by God as He flows through us.