The Bible’s use of the metaphor of clothing is intriguing. Here’s a read on it that I guarantee you never heard from the pulpit…
Consider several quotes:
What is our “nakedness?” The fact that we don’t have what it takes. Adam and Eve didn’t realize this until “their eyes were opened,” making them self-aware. Then they hid.
What is our clothing? God’s gift of competence with which He covers us, lovingly and willingly–not to leave us weak, but make us strong–to demonstrate His power in us, making us more than conquerors. One translation reads, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer.” Ask yourself if that kind of might characterizes your “Christian walk.”
The church lied to us, claiming that the nakedness we’re ashamed of is the “truth” that we are damaged, corrupted, inferior, or–thanks to freakishly demented notions like “original sin,” “sin nature,” and “total depravity”–bad at the core. This might make sense if sin were a mere matter of law-breaking. It might be true if God, after creating us, hadn’t said that we were very good.
Christian orthodoxies and Christian heresies and everything in between share a common paradigm: adversariality. At least, I have yet to find one that doesn’t. I’d love someone to show me exception(s) to the rule. Even with exceptions, the rule remains overwhelming and damning.
Adversariality is a belief that long-term, traumatic abuse beats into us. Before being traumatically abused, we don’t see the world in black/white, either/or, us vs. them, or good vs. evil. Why? Because we see that it’s all good, very good, just like God did when He created it.
Then we get beaten, debased, mocked, humiliated, exploited, abandoned… By adolescence, we’ve learned that the world is definitely not a safe place, but full of threatening forces and beings–not accidentally, but by design.
Before, we were too young to ask ourselves if the world is really like this, or if we’re so badly damaged that we can’t see it otherwise; but now we start asking. What answer do we get? Yes, indeed, the world is a dangerous place. First, we must make sure that we’re safe, and then we can afford to live. Many of us spend so much time focused on safety, we barely live at all.
Very few of us managed to resist the brainwashing. I didn’t. To one degree or another, we succumb to the belief that first, foremost, and always, life is a matter of adversity. Adversariality inseminates us, grows, and overrules all else. It seems so real, so true, leaving us convinced that things look that way because they are that way.
In fact, things are not that way. It’s provable, and I’ve yet to meet anyone that proved me wrong–not because they tried and failed, but because no one, apparently, thinks it’s capable of proof or disproof, let alone how to do it. The question got closed before being asked.
Adversariality is false, along with some other deeply, forcibly impregnated beliefs; but we remain obstinately possessed by its “truth.” This constitutes our deluded state induced by the real “fall”–our resort to ego, isolation, fear, and defense. Our sin was that we opted for adversariality. We turned away from God to drink a delusion–the spiritual origin of all sin. Adversariality is the very juice invigorating the root that expresses all sin: love of money. Our salvation consists of being freed from the delusion, but that requires its own turning away, back to God. Rather than show us the way out of delusion, the church reinforced and exploited it, imposing adversariality on us instead of setting us free from it.
All of the support for our belief in adversariality takes the form of carnal evidence–i.e., behavioral evidence–instead of spiritual evidence. Behavior is the currency of choice for hypocrites: those who think that cleaning the outside of the cup suffices, even though they inwardly remain full of “robbery and self-indulgence,” as if finery could change the fact that they are “like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”
Why is behavior so important to hypocrites, when behavior is the result of inner motivations, not their cause–the tail, not the dog? Because hypocrites can’t see past appearances. They are blind and deaf, oblivious to motivational and intentional realities, which is to say, spiritual realities. Why are they blind and deaf? Because their capacity to detect souls and relate to them as inestimable beings was damaged or stunted, so they degrade others and treat them like objects. In the extreme, we call these people psychopaths.
Without operable spiritual senses, all that damaged souls have left are physical appearances: what “the eye sees and the ear hears.” Behavior becomes paramount. “Righteousness” is reduced to behavioral terms. Appearance of sin becomes tantamount to proof of sin. Blind lead blind and fall into one ditch after another. Appearance becomes everything, because everything behind it is murk. Clothing becomes an identifier, but it isn’t the clothing mentioned by Paul and the angel of Revelations.
It was given to the saints to clothe themselves in fine linen, bright and clean: their “righteous acts.” We should ask, “righteous in whose eyes?” Righteous in the eyes of those blind to the spirit of an act, i.e., its intention and true significance? Or righteous in the sight of the One to which no creature is hidden from sight, all things being open and laid bare, that is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart?
Real clothing is the result of real salvation: a thorough, complete, inner transformation of heart; a radical change of motivations and intentions that we express in action: God manifested in flesh. This is the meaning of the expelled guest in Jesus’ parable of a wedding:
He wore clothes, but they showed that he didn’t appreciate the significance of the occasion. Internally, he was damaged, unable to see, hear, or grasp what was all around him. Deluded. Binding him and throwing him into outer darkness was not punitive–it was revelatory. It forced him to face his impotence and alienation the only way in which he was capable: physically, visibly, confronting him externally with what was already true internally, thereby destroying his delusion.
Damned straight that there is weeping and gnashing of teeth in that place! Why else would we resist, fight, and kick against the pricks like we do to avoid it? But the story need not end there.
Paul made some incredible claims in those lines, not only about himself, but about everyone who loves God.
We do speak… but we speak… For to us God revealed them… Now we have received… so that we may know the things freely given to us by God… which things we also speak…
Then the doozy: But we have the mind of Christ.
Not “will have” or “should have” or “can have” or “have access to” or “have a bit of.” Read it again.
Everyone who loves God has the mind of Christ. It comes with the love and in the love. It is the love. As simple as that.
The clothing that hides the nakedness of our insufficiency, that swallows up mortality with life, that is fine, bright and clean, is the righteous, visible acts that express—Paul and John wrote manifest—invisible, inner truths of love’s intention and motivation. Only this clothing is acceptable in God’s view or any honest, loving person’s view. It’s the only clothing that does any good. We don the clothing of hypocrites only to hide and obscure the shame of invisible, inner secrets. The former reveals truth. The latter deceives. Big difference.