Clothing the Naked
Friday, April 25, 2014
New Church Perspective in Andy Heilman , Babylon, Sodom, nakedness, teaching children

Is nakedness something to be ashamed of or proud of? What about the nakedness of our sins? In this abridged sermon Andy describes the ways truth can both lay bare and cover up sin. Anyone wishing to read the full length original can contact the author or New Church Perpsective. -Editor

When thou seest the naked, thou shalt cover him; and from thine own flesh, hide thyself not. Then shall thy light break forth like the morning, and thy health shall spring forth speedily." Isaiah 58:7-8

Throughout the Word, from Genesis through Revelation, we are taught that since the fall of man the nakedness of evil should be covered. When the man and his wife disobeyed the Lord and saw their nakedness they covered themselves with fig leaves, and then Jehovah gave them skins for clothing (Genesis 3). And in Revelation the Lord counseled the church of Laodecia to buy of Him white garments that they may be clothed, that the shame of their nakedness would not appear (Revelation 3:18). And later, in preparation for the battle of Armageddon, He says, "Blessed is he who is awake and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame."

Yet we also find many places in the Word where the nakedness of evil is uncovered, from the fall of man in Genesis, to the judgment on the harlot of Babylon in the book or Revelation. The lewd and perverse nature of evil must be known and acknowledged, so that we can shun and remove it from our lives and minds as far as possible. And so Nahum prophecies against Nineveh, "Woe to the city of bloods...I will uncover thy skirts upon thy faces, I will show the nations thy nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame" (Nahum 3:1,5). For if evil were to remain hidden within a false facade of goodness, the Lord could not enter in with His healing and salvation. As it is said in the book of Isaiah

"There is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no longer be called the tender and the delicate...Thy nakedness shall be uncovered; even thy shame shall be seen...Our Redeemer is Jehovah of Hosts." (Isaiah 47:1,3,4)

The need to both cover the nakedness of man, but also to know about and acknowledge it, especially our own nakedness, can be seen in the words of our text. "When thou seest the naked, thou shalt cover him; and from thine own flesh, hide thyself not." This can also be seen in the story of the man and his wife, after they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In explanation of this story we read in the Arcana Coelestia, that

"by 'knowing that they were naked' is signified their knowing and acknowledging themselves to be no longer in innocence as before, but in evil" for "where there is no innocence, nakedness is a scandal and disgrace, because it is attended with a consciousness of thinking evil" (213).

The clothes with which nakedness is covered are the truths of the Word, for with these truths we can amend our life and thus cover our shame. This is not the hypocrisy of the daughter of Babylon who covers herself in scarlet and crimson, so that she might appear tender and delicate. For the truths of the Word expose this kind of nakedness, and yet in many ways they also cover this nakedness as well. For the Word has a way of showing us our evils, and yet at the same time covering these evils.

We need to read the Word, to the study the Heavenly Doctrine, in order to understand and acknowledge the nature of these evils, but the Lord is not asking us to become caught in the mire of actually studying the sordid particulars of the evils themselves. Like the sons of Noah, we must walk backward, with clear truths from the Lord's Word, and cover such nakedness with all our power. We are not to go into lurid detail, and make such subjects a matter of daily conversation, for this tends to impute the evil to those who have fallen into it, rather than help them get out of it.

The Heavenly Doctrines speak of many perversions, they reveal the lewdness of shameful evils, and yet they do not dwell on these in such a way as to excite neither lasciviousness nor familiarity. For example in Conjugial Love, in speaking of those in the lust of defloration it says, "Being violators of marriage and despisers of the female sex, and thus spiritual robbers, it is plain that the Divine nemesis pursues such men." These truths from the Lord open the infested wound, clean out the corrupted matter, just like a surgical operation, it is done as quickly and decisively as possible. And this way the Lord's oil and wine, His love and truth, may enter in, and the wound might be bound up and healed. And it is in this very chapter that we find some of the most beautiful teachings about the importance of virginity and the innocence that leads up to marriage and the inmost conjunction between the husband and wife.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah exposes one of the worst evils that infest the human race, and yet it also does this in such a way that the lewdness and perversity is covered by the Lord's swift judgment on these cities. It is a temptation to dwell in Sodom, on the wall so to speak, and to linger on this wall, even when we have been warned to flee. It is a temptation to look upon this evil in an impartial way, to speak of it publicly, or put names to it which bring affectional ties, and in a way that gives it room to increase and convince. In an effort to excuse and help someone out of evil, we might end up excusing the evil itself, and actually imputing it to the one we seek to help.

But as Lot and his family lingered, the angels took them firmly by the hand and led them out of the city and warned them not to look back. It is so tempting after clearly seeing something to be evil from the Word, to start questioning this, to take a new look from experience, and then from this look again at the teachings of the Word. But the Lord warns us in the Gospel of Luke of the danger of profanation in returning to reconsider in this way.

"In that day whoever shall be upon the housetop, and his vessels in the house, let him not come down to take them away; and he who is in the field, let him likewise not turn around to what [is] behind. Remember Lot's wife" (Luke 17:31,32).

But we are not speaking here of the false and temporary healing accomplished by hiding the evil deeds and allowing them to continue undiscovered. This is warned against by the prophet Jeremiah in these words,

"They have healed the hurt of my people only superficially, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace. Thus says the LORD, Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush...Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the paths of eternity, where the good way is, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls" (Jeremiah 6:14-16).
A true and lasting healing and peace can be given, but not without acknowledging the evil of what has happened, not without seeking the path to heaven, the good way taught by the Lord Himself, and walking therein.

There are times when it is necessary, when actual evil has occurred, that we may need to enter into a subject in more detail than we would wish. But this is not to be a public matter, and a subject for social conversation, especially around and among young people, for the simple reason given in the Spiritual Diary, "lest they come into their thought" (Spiritual Experiences (Buss) n. 2711). Also the more public something becomes the harder it is for someone to separate from the evil. At times, for legal reasons or for protection of the innocent things are made public, but in general it is a matter for private instruction. In such instruction and counseling many of the teachings in the Spiritual Diary which expose the dire nature of certain perversions can be helpful in opening and healing a deep and infected wound.

The Word does indeed teach us about these things, they even include warnings in stories in the Word which the Lord has often accommodated for children. We must be warned of the evil of Sodom, the lasciviousness of Babylon, but we are not to dwell in these cities. The Lord both exposes the nakedness of evil though His truth, and He covers it with the same truths. If we hear about something lewd or shameful, if we can be of help, let us take the truths we have learned and walk backward in covering the nakedness of those who are willing to receive, as Shem and Japheth did for their father Noah. When He sends His angels to Sodom, and finds us on the wall, let us admit our desperation and the shameful situation, let us take His hand, flee the city and not turn back. The Lord sees into every perversity and shameful deed, there is nothing hidden from the light of the Lord's truths. He knows its nature and He has revealed to us what He can heal, cover, and save.

"When thou seest the naked, thou shalt cover him; and from thine own flesh, hide thyself not. Then shall thy light break forth like the morning, and thy health shall spring forth speedily." Isaiah 58:7-8

Lessons: Genesis 3:6-11,21; Arcana Coelestia 1079; Conjugial Love 431

Further Readings: Apocalypse Explained 240.12; Arcana Coelestia 224, 2466, 4956; Conjugial Love 402, 502, 504; True Christian Religion 73; Jeremiah 8.12, 13; Zephaniah 3.5; Matthew 25

Andy Heilman

Andy married Carrie Friesen in 1976, and they have six children and four grandchildren. Andy has been a minister in the New Church for about 35 years, and is currently working as a semi-retired pastor in Kempton, teaching science and Hebrew among other things, and is also visiting Brazil on a regular basis, training theological students, and trying to stay cool while he is there in the summer.

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