The Journey reading for today is John 3:9-21. It comes at the same time that I am teaching the Torah, and specifically Genesis 2-3 this week in the Beginnings class. What happened to Adam and Eve after they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? When they heard God walking in the garden, they knew they were naked, they were ashamed, and they hid themselves. They had entered into the knowledge of good and evil. They now knew that each of them were capable and culpable of betrayal. Their selfishness had been exposed. They were stripped naked and the shame of their guilt and evil potential pushed them into the shadows.
This describes the human condition. God created us and called it very good. God’s light of love and truth continually shines and invites everyone to walk in the light, where all our thoughts and actions are fully exposed. To walk in the light is to walk in complete vulnerability, ugly warts and all, with no shame, willing to be seen by God and others, as you are.
Western theology has traditionally thought of the light/dark metaphor in a substantive sense. We think that God is the good and perfect substance in which there is no imperfection. We call this holiness. The original sin of Adam and Eve corrupted human substance, thus plunging it into a substantive state of imperfection, making it dark and dirty, thus rendering it incapable of standing in God’s presence. No matter how much the human may want to come into God’s presence, the ugly stain of Adam’s sin has made it impossible.
We then read John 3 through “substance lenses” and make the light/dark metaphors about the state of the human’s being.
What if the story of sin and salvation is about a changed of substance and position, but about relationships? What if this is really about blame, shame, vulnerability, and our fear of being exposed? What if God simply invites us to own up to the wrongs we have done, come out from behind the tree, step into the light of vulnerability and full disclosure, so that we can be in authentic relationship with God, each other, our selves, and the world? No more hiding. No more cover-ups. No more “What-if” or “blame them” or “not worthy.”
What if the condemnation of God is not God’s hatred or repulsion for the ugly stain of our soul, inherited from our primordial ancestor? What if the condemnation is the natural consequence of our own self-loathing, shame, and retreat into the shadows of fear and hiding, believing that God will destroy us because of what we have done?
John 3 says that God doesn’t hate us. God loves us. Jesus became the serpent and hung on the cross, just like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness. God became sin, and was destroyed on the cross, so that our sin and shame could die there, too. God, through the physical person of Jesus Christ says, “I love you. Step out of the shadows and let me see you, warts and all. There is no shame here. You can know freedom and experience love once again.”
What would the world be like if we all stepped out of the shadow and into the light of full honesty and vulnerability? Why don’t we? We are not willing to step out because we know that it only takes one person to start shooting from the shadows to mow down those who seek to be in the light.
So, we retreat in fear, and stay in the shadows. We hide from God and each other.
This is the prison of solitary confinement. This is Hell.
Jesus was willing to be stripped naked and exposed before the world, for us. He had to die to fear, shame, and hatred, and then he had to forgive before his resurrection life could be born. We, too, must die before life can begin.
Let us walk in the light of truthfulness and vulnerability today, for the sake of the world.