I was raised in shame. Taunted. Tormented. Humiliated. So when I heard the supposed “gospel” for the first time, at the age of 12, the pastor confirmed it: I was no good. A despicable sinner. Even God agreed. It was perversely comforting.
That same “gospel” taught me to grovel before God. The more I put myself down, the more humble and holy I was. According to that pastor, God likes that type of humility. Groveling.
For me it was the unholy trinity of childhood trauma, that first pastor, and myself. Who was it for you? Who told you that you were naked?
That’s the question God asked Adam after he became the first sinner. “Who told you that you were naked?” No blame. No shame. No groveling required. Just a simple rhetorical question that reveals the difference between how we see ourselves and how God sees us.
It’s not that we aren’t naked—flawed, broken, damaged, sinners, whatever word you want to use. We are. Profoundly so. Acknowledging our nakedness is one thing. Necessary even. Defining ourselves by it is quite another. Who told you that you were naked? God is asking. So whoever it was, it wasn’t Him.
When we make our nakedness our defining characteristic, we make a critical miscalculation. We instinctively and inevitably try to cover ourselves with fig leaves of God-seeking and God-pleasing. Those are wonderful desires and terrible goals. Because as long as we are seeking a God who is yet-to-be-found, and serving a God who is yet-to-be-pleased, we are missing entirely the God who’s already here and already delighted with us.
Who told you that you were naked? As if God hasn’t known it all along and been utterly undeterred by it. Jesus died and rose again to clothe us with His righteousness. That was enough. We’ve already been acquitted by the perfect Judge who remains forever satisfied with His verdict. The only judge left unconvinced is us.
Maybe being spiritual isn’t about chasing moral perfection and miraculous powers. That would be consistent with the abysmal track record of all those naked people trying so damn hard, as I once was, to “be like Jesus”—millions of people over thousands of years with a pure desire, noble intentions and a lousy track record. Nobody in 2,000 years of trying has ever even come close.
Maybe we should stop trying to be like Jesus and let Jesus be like Jesus. He’s much better at it than we are, and He’s righteous enough for all of us. Maybe what God wants to teach us more than to live like Jesus is to love like Jesus. For that we need naked people, including ourselves—not to shame them for their nakedness, but to cover them with those seven liberating words: “Who told you that you were naked?”
It’s easy to love the impeccably dressed. Loving the naked, now that’s God’s kind of love.
Helping people grapple with shame, fear, doubt, disappointment and disillusionment is one of the main reasons we exist. If you are wrestling with aspects of your faith, please reach out to us, either by private message on our Facebook page, or email us at email@example.com.