On a calm, mid-summer day, I decided to take a stroll down the middle of a street. It was a quaint, small town lane, with beautiful houses on either side, so I started to scan the row of houses on my right. However, my eyes didn’t reach past the nearest sidewalk, because I saw a child playing on the sidewalk and he was wearing absolutely nothing. I was surprised, but rationalized it in my mind, thinking that the child could hardly be blamed; they probably didn’t know any better, and their parents would surely come out soon to reprimand them. But when I looked up and further along the street, I saw an older gentleman in his yard, also baring all, pushing a lawn mower away from me. Now, he was not a child, so he could not have the excuse of ignorance, yet he seemed not to care at all about what other people thought. And I understood his attitude of ease when I saw some of his neighbors talking to each other over a hedge row, and they, too, were completely unclothed.
All of the people in that neighborhood seemed to think that nothing was wrong with what they were not wearing. It was just an ordinary day in small-town America. Thankfully, I do not live in that small town; I was just visiting. But in all my life and in all the places I have lived, being naked in public would never be normal or right, yet everyone in that place seemed completely unashamed of their nakedness. Their brash contempt of justifiable shame and their apparent feeling of normalcy started to stir a strange feeling in me as I averted my eyes and kept walking. Though I was completely clothed, like I should be, I felt ashamed that I was clothed when no one else was. I was not normal in the eyes of everyone else, and that bothered me, even though I knew that the normal in that town was wrong. I was ashamed that I did not fit in, and a strange desire stemmed from that feeling of shame; I wanted to be like everyone else.
Eventually, the urge to fit in became too strong, so as I stepped into a nearby convenience store, I started to undress. I still held onto my clothes as I walked around the store, half-naked. And as I rounded a corner of one of the aisles, I saw a strange sight (or, at least, it was strange when compared to the normal of the town); there was a circle of people standing in the middle of the aisle, and they were all fully clothed. Suddenly, my shame was set aright and I started to put my clothes back on. When I was clothed again, the group started to disperse, but before they headed out the door, each of them took off their clothes and left them in the store.
Yet again, I was confused and shocked. It seemed like those people had come to the store to meet and show solidarity in their modesty, but they were too afraid to step outside, while staying fully clothed. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it, but I soon came to grips with the truth. Those people in the store were Christians; their shame having been covered by Christ. In the safety of a building, they met, but once they left that building, they put off Christ and opened themselves up to the real shame of being naked and normal. Instead of casting off their fear and keeping their clothes on, they cast off their clothes and revealed the depths of their fear.
A follower of Christ should be ashamed of sin and of nakedness, but never of being clothed with Christ. They have already confessed their guilt and shame and laid it down at the feet of the Lamb, and have had their sins covered by the blood of the Lamb. They were once naked, blind, and sold into a lie, but in Christ, they have been transformed into a new creation; no longer embracing the sins of their flesh that had made them “normal” and had defined their existence. As a new creation, they have a new family, the Church, sons and daughters of the Lord. But even though church is a great part of following Jesus, it is not the most essential or meaningful part. The greatest gift that we receive upon believing in Christ is rebirth, where our very nature is turned right again, and we have a renewed fellowship with our Savior. This fellowship is precious, holy, and awesome! It should not be polluted by shame, because a believer is no longer defined by, or enslaved to, sin, but is defined by Christ and (should be) devoted to Him.
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God; a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now He that has wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also has given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 5:1-5
If we know that it is better to be clothed with Christ than to be found naked, then why do we still wish to be unclothed like all the rest? I am not just talking about what we literally wear on our bodies, but what we wear on our spirits. Do we have joy, contentment, and a spirit of kindness, love, grace, and humility? How can anyone tell that we are believers if we look and act like everyone else or worse than those who do not have Christ? For all that Christ has done for us, what does He have to show for it in our lives? After all, we are His ambassadors: Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be you reconciled to God. For He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 2:20-21)
I do not mean to say that perfection must be reached before salvation in Christ; He is the One who perfects. I do not mean that a believer of Christ must be perfect after salvation, because that can never be reached on this earth. What I mean is that they must submit to being perfected by the One Who has called them.
In and of myself, I can only change and/or clean the parts of myself that can be seen with the human eye, but God has the power to change and form my heart and soul. Though this “being perfected” is not always a pleasant process, it ultimately brings me joy, purpose, and rest. So, I rejoice in the truth that God is diligent and thorough in His work of perfecting the saints. Furthermore, I am grateful that Jesus has not given up on the most reluctant hearts (like mine), but continues to break down artificial strongholds and build in His sons and daughters a heart after His own.
So, when Jesus comes in glory, I do not want to be found naked, but I want to be wearing the white robe that He gave to me when I first believed on His name.
Just because naked is normal does not make it right or good. It may be easy to convince most people that being naked in public is wrong, but they don’t see that sin itself is a form of nakedness: “The creative person shows himself naked, and the more vigorous his creative act, the more naked he appears. Sometimes totally vulnerable, yet always invulnerable in the sense of his own integrity.” (Harry Partch) It is hard to convince some people of the truth that sin leaves you vulnerable, though it should not be hard to believe when you see all of the hurt and destruction that results from selfish acts of sinful people. Without proper clothing or armor, the simplest and weakest of attacks can defeat us. But those in Christ have such an awesome power to repel evil and convince the naked world of the truth, but they must put on Christ daily, and stand unashamed of their armor in this world of nakedness.
When I was in the convenience store, half-naked and looking at a circle of clothed people, I felt shame, but when I saw them conform to the world again, I only felt confused. There needs to be unity in modesty for those who claim to follow Christ; modesty of the spirit and of the body. Without that consistent witness of God’s transforming power, we become nothing more than consumers who step into the church, get what we want, and then step out with our hands full, but our hearts empty.
I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. But because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of My mouth. You say, “I am rich, increased with goods, and have need of nothing,” not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be seen; and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock. If any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me. Revelation 3:17-20
Now, let me take this moment and stop the train running through your brain by stating that this was not real life, it was only a dream. Or, at least, it seems like real life should not be this way, but in the light of day, my eyes were opened to the naked truth; everyone wearing their birthday suit. Please, don’t let this be true of you. Dear Jesus, please don’t let this be true of me. Amen.
Besides this you know the time; the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its lusts. (Romans 13:11-14)