“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
I’m one of those guys who has gone through life studiously avoiding any scenario that might turn into a skins vs. shirts game. I am not eager to have my physical blemishes as well as my pasty and flabby appearance exposed to the critical eyes of others. It is my preference to remain fully clothed when in public, and I am convinced that the public feels the same way. I hated the communal “prison” showers at the Police Academy! Ugh! Sculpted Adonis I am not. Spiritually speaking none of us have bodies that we can be proud of. The history of all that we've done and what has been done to us has left us all scarred and misshapen.
About a year ago I struck up a relationship with an accountability partner, and that got me thinking more deeply about the idea of being spiritually naked. Being spiritually naked in front of another person elicits the same sort of panic in me as being physically naked. If anything I am more ashamed by the true condition of my heart than I am of my body.
First, there is little profit in being honest with another man about your failings and struggles if your heart isn’t soft towards God. If sinning before God is similar to getting undressed in front of a doctor in that it evokes no shame, then your conscience is seared and your heart towards God and your sin needs to change before you can be helped or be a help through an accountability relationship. The Holy eyes of God cannot look on sin- He abhors it! Loving God means loving the things he loves and hating the things He hates. As followers of Christ, we should be concerned if we find ourselves harboring a secret love for sin. For such a person whose heart is not soft towards God’s correction, the opinion of a man holds more weight than the approval of the Lord, and they are trying through the accountability relationship to build an artificial apparatus, a fence of man’s approval, to contain their sinful cravings. That is a flimsy fence that will prove too feeble to enclose the robust appetites of our sinful nature. Also if there is no genuine brokenness before God there will be no shame attached to withholding information from, or lying to, an accountability partner. The inward conviction of the Spirit should be sufficient motivation to repent from sin and strive toward Godliness.
I have found it helpful to meet regularly with my accountability partner though. I think that most people, live a double life to some extent. The public image we all foster and promote is like a suit of clothes that covers our blemishes and hides the true appearance of our hearts from men. When coupled with a soft heart towards God and His correction, having an accountability partner has served in my life to be a great encouragement. It is critical to give Godly people access to the reality of our hearts so we can correct and encourage each other, as well as be spurred on through the testimonies of God’s goodness, love, mercy, patience and provision. We were designed by a God of relationships to live in community with fellow believers. These ought not be superficial relationships- a mile wide and an inch deep- but rather intimate and honest ones.
Just as with physical nakedness I find there are two stripes of people- the first and most common group are those who are reluctant to bare all (spiritually speaking) in front of others. Most of us understand and share this reluctance. I think this stems from a preponderance of pride as well as a lack of trust. The divide between their hearts and the person they advertise to be can be so wide that is difficult and humiliating to confess, and the truth of their current struggles and failings is too ugly and potentially damaging to entrust to someone else. It is safest locked up and hidden away in the dark shameful recesses of our hearts.
I call the second group of people, “spiritual exhibitionists.” They seem to enjoy airing their dirty laundry in public. I don’t have as much insight into the motives of spiritual exhibitionists, but I have seen a fair amount of them here at camp. Usually towards the end of a retreat you will find them up front spilling their guts in front of a crowd. I think in some settings this is appropriate and helpful, but usually it just strikes me as a little narcissistic. I think it is more natural and certainly healthier to share such things with a small group of people (or an individual) that you have a relationship with- people who have demonstrated that they love you and love the Lord- people whom you can trust and who are equally serious about the pursuit of Godliness- not a crowd of strangers. Don't get naked in front of strangers. This is generally a good rule when contemplating any sort of nakedness.