Marriage: A Safe Gospel Radiant Place
2:20-25, Genesis 3:5-7, 21
23 The man said,
"This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman, j’
for she was taken out of man."
24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
You might remember that last week, we started this series on marriage by trying to rescue our concept of marriage from the slimy pit of cultural mediocrity. We did so by being reminded that marriage was God’s work, it is God who brings two people together, it was instituted by God right at the very beginning, marriage is the crowning relationship of creation and so both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, the creation stories conclude with marriage. We also were reminded that marriage was for the glory of God, specifically the glory of Christ and his flawless faithfulness in covenant keeping with the church, Christ’s bride. So we concluded that staying married is not about staying in love, it is about covenant keeping. And to pull the themes together, we notice this morning that scripture concludes with the marriage of the bride and the Lamb, the crowning achievement of the new creation like the first creation is a marriage.
Now we get to verse 25 of Chapter 2
25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
In this first relationship, there was no fear, there was no sense of shame. And it is important to start by asking why. Why did they feel no shame.
There are two possible answers and both need our consideration.
The first reason why they had no shame was because they had perfect bodies.
Obviously they did have perfect bodies. Eve was a delight to Adam’s eyes. Adam was the perfect man. Even God, when he saw what he had made decided that it was very good. And when God makes something very good, its got to be great, prefect, without a flaw, no role in the wrong place, nothing out of proportion, no flaws in the skin. There was no shame because there was no flaw, nothing to pick on, nothing to notice wrong. They had perfect bodies.
Now that might be the reason there was no shame, but it does not ring true if we listen to life and the rest of scriptures for the following reasons...
A. The first reason is from life. If you have experienced life, you know all to well that perfection cannot prevent you from being shamed.
All of us know that shame depends on who we live with, who we are interacting with. If we live with a shaming kind of person, they will find flaws in our perfections, our strengths may become the focus of ridicule, like the intelligent child who is called a geek. A shaming person will find some demeaning comment, some blame, some flaw. It is not enough to be perfect, to present ourselves without flaw. You’ve been there. The truth is, in this passage, God is not drawing attention to the perfection of Adam and Eve’s bodies.
B. Verse 24 is Jesus most foundational text concerning marriage so this structure of marriage and verse 25 is based on the foundation of verse 24. The intent to be without shame continues after the fall.
Now everyone of us has imperfections, some of us have bodies that are wearing out, we even have mechanical joints. Some of us, when we look in the mirror, we don’t like what we see. Some of us hate having our picture taken - and there is a reason, we see all our own flaws. We have a sense of shame. How is it possible to have a relationship in which there is no shame after the fall? Our imperfections are everywhere.
The answer is as you might have suspected in the nature of the relationship that Adam and Eve had - a covenant keeping relationship. Shamelessness does not arise from our own perfections, it arises from the nature of the covenant love that a man and his wife can share in leaving their parents and cleaving to one another. You see there are two options only
I am shame free - because of my perfections or
I am free from shame because my spouse, even though she knows all my imperfections, still loves me and chooses not to shame me. Love covers a multitude of sins. That is covenant keeping love. You can probably sense where the title of this sermon comes from - Marriage is a Safe Gospel Radiant place - because that kind of covenant keeping, that kind of passing over sin - that is what the gospel is about. God from the very beginning ordained marriage to be a display of the gospel, a display of the relationship between Christ and the church based in the cross of Christ, relationship between Christ and you, you, flawed, imperfect, stained with sin. And yet the miracle of the gospel is that Christ passes over that sin, does not shame us for it, loves us instead, pursues us. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The point is this. They were naked and not ashamed because they were in covenant with each other, and they were in faithful covenant with each other because they were in covenant with God together.
Now this relationship without shame is based on their relationship with God is proven if we look at Genesis chapter 3. Most of us know the story. The serpent came to Eve and promised that she would become like God, knowing good and evil. He promised her independence, the right to know what is right and wrong all for herself - listen to the words
5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Please please notice. The first consequence of the fall, the first consequence of breaking covenant relationship with God was shame. They realized they were naked. Suddenly they had something to hide. Suddenly they needed to be covered. Why?
It is certainly not because they suddenly got imperfect bodies. Their bodies were the same bodies that they had just a few minutes before the fall.
What changed was the nature of their relationship because their relationship with God had changed. And so they sewed fig leaves for themselves. The very first consequence of the fall - they became self conscious about their bodies. Shame has become a reality. We wonder why in our culture there are eating disorders, why some people will destroy themselves because their bodies are imperfect. Shame, powerful shame is part of our lives.
Because their relationship with God was broken, their relationship with each other became filled with shame. The covenant keeping foundation of their marriage collapsed. The kind of trustworthiness, the kind of love that passes over sins, does not keep a record of wrongs, the kind of love that always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres - it was gone. No longer was a marriage without shame possible. You see at the very foundation of marriage is a foundational relationship with God. Where relationship with God is broken, relationship with one another follows immediately. So Paul’s strong advice, if you marry, marry in the Lord. Doing otherwise is asking for a lot of trouble.
Maybe for some of us, the connection between our verticle relationship with God and our horizontal relationship with each other is still a little abstract. Let me talk for a few minutes about the sources of shame that happen in a marriage.
The first source of shame was in Adam and Eve. They became aware that they had done something wrong. A sense of covenant breaking guilt in their relationship with God became acute. Where once they were pure and clean, walking in peace with God, now they were defiled, inwardly dirty, God became their enemy, they hid from God like a thief hides from a policeman. And what they knew all to well in their hearts is that shame was something they deserved! What they were and what they ought to be were two different things. The discrepancy showed up in their body image, their self image, so they clothed themselves with fig leaves to hide what happened inside. They tried by these fig leaves to put on a "good image," look a little better than they really were, and so we see here the seeds of hypocrisy, hiding what we really are by putting on a front, a show, a mask. We all know that dynamic.
The second source of shame was between Adam and Eve. You see when we break relationship with God, the first consequence is an awareness that we are separated from God. If God is far away, separate, they who is going to look out for us. It is not God - then it must be me. And a person looking out for themselves, is by definition a person who is selfish. What happens when selfishness enters a marriage relationship? The answer is a lot of shame and pain. A selfish person cannot be trusted. A selfish person will find my flaws and use them to his or her advantage. A selfish person will be taking care of themselves, build themselves up at my expense and so Adam blames Eve for giving him of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A selfish person quickly becomes a shaming person, a person who is unsafe in relationship, a person who puts self first, a person who causes me pain. There is no bed partner worse than a selfish person.
And so because not only in themselves did they have the awareness that they deserved shame, but because they now realized their partner could not be trusted, their partner had become selfish, they became body conscious, they covered themselves by sewing fig leaves for themselves, they hid the reality within from each other. This was the worst possible combination for a marriage relationship - two sinners, deeply aware of their own guilt, two sinners, both untrustworthy because they not only decided for themselves what is right and wrong, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, but two sinners who had started taking care of themselves first, before their spouse. The pain that that first fall caused cannot be measured by any standard but the cross.
And that this morning is what I want to conclude with, because I invite you to notice a very interesting dynamic in Genesis 3.
Adam and Eve, aware of their guilt and aware of their broken relationship with one another clothed themselves with wilting fig leaves attempt to hide the glory that they had lost - a fairly useless exercise - but then hypocrisy is a useless exercise, it has to be maintained repeatedly because the lie about who we really are needs to be supported and reinforced every minute.
What can be done for this broken marriage, this broken relationship between God and humanity and humans with each other, husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters, every relationship that we live with every day.
The surprising answer in this passage is this - vs. 21 - God clothed them.
21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
God by his actions said - Your self clothing, your wilting fig leaves, they will not do. Your attempts at hiding what you have done are insufficient. Your attempt at keeping up your image will not suffice. And so in mercy, God takes the lives of some animals, he sheds blood so that he can make them a new covering, ones that won’t wither, he makes them garments of animal skins, garments made by God.
You see it don’t you. This is mercy. This is God reminding us every day we get dressed, saying right at the very beginning of creation that our clothing, our self righteousness will not do, we need to be clothed in righteousness, a righteousness from God - only that will suffice. And so 2000 years ago God sacrificed the Lamb, the Lamb of God, the son of God, God shed his own blood on a cross, so that we might be clothed in a righteousness that comes from him, so that new covenant with God could be restored. Do you see what has happened at the cross. Jesus died for marriages! Jesus died so that marriages, reconciled with God might once again become places where naked and not ashamed might be a reality. God in Jesus decided to pass over our sins, he decided, instead of shaming us, to give us new clothing, the clothing of the righteousness of Christ. He decided to rebuild our relationship with him so that, in having our covenant with him renewed, we might renew our covenants with one another, passing over our imperfections and turning our marriages where love keeps no record of wrongs, love always hopes, always trusts always perseveres. He died to restore our marriages to be safe gospel radiant relationships because we turn back to obedience, back to God, away from selfishness back to service in marriage, away from shaming back to praising. God clothed them.
Today we celebrate the Lord’s supper - and in doing so, we remember that Christ’s blood poured out was so that we might be re-clothed, in his righteousness. And in gathering together as a family around this table, we remember that in being reconciled with God we have also been called to relationships where we are reconciled with one another. Come to the feast of our Lord.
Miracle that marriages can still be safe places of covenant keeping b/c of new covenant in Christ’s blood - a new righteousness with which we are clothed, a new relationship with each other. Covenant a place of born again affections.
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.