Standing Naked Before God

You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.

-- Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone"

 Western religious traditions commonly depict a final judgment in which the dead are made to stand naked before their God.  This was how Michelangelo originally portrayed figures in the Last Judgment on the Sistine Chapel ceiling -- at least until Vatican bluenoses insisted that the figures be draped with loincloths.  Curiously, although both the Old and New Testaments are much concerned with God's judgment, nowhere do they say anyone actually stands naked before God.  The Letter to the Hebrews does state "there is no creature hidden from God's sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of him to whom we must give account."  However, there is no indication that our nakedness in God's eyes is specifically tied to a day of judgment.

God's judgment is usually portrayed in dire terms.  It is not so much that we are made to stand naked before God but that we are transparent, our sins and darkest secrets laid bare.  It is by no means clear whether the trauma of such exposure or the threat of eternal damnation looms as the more fearsome prospect.

To stand naked before God is in some sense a return to our primordial condition.  In the biblical creation story, the man and the woman in the garden are described as naked and unashamed.  The first sign of their newly fallen state is that they hide from God's sight when they hear him coming.  They cover their nakedness with fig leaves, another telling sign of their nascent self-awareness. 

To stand naked before God is to strip away the covering of self.  Our deepest fear is that our naked self will be exposed to harsh judgment.  But that is not how it works.  The truth is that the self has usurped the throne of judgment, and self-condemnation is our real fear.  God condemns no one.  Comes the day of judgment and we are shorn of self; the usurper is overthrown. Instead of shame and condemnation, we find liberation.  We are revealed as God created us, naked and unashamed, as naked as the risen Christ emerging from his tomb. 

Hebrews 4:13

© Copyright 2004-2021 by Eric Rennie
All Rights Reserved