A conversation with one of my older friends—a big brother—in the [neighbor]hood (South Jamaica, Queens):
Craig: [with much excitement] Oh snap! Juicy, what’s good, little homie?
Me: I’m good, enjoying life, grinding, keeping my head above the waters. What’s good with you, homie?
Craig: Son, I remember how you were growing up, and I am proud of you, little homie. I’ve been watching you on Facebook. Keep your head up, my G [a nickname of endearment].
Me: I appreciate that, bro. I am who I am because of where I came from.
Craig: Word, son. I appreciate how you give mad [a lot of] props to the hood. We all respect you out here. We know who you used to be, and we see who you are now; and even though you still struggle, we appreciate you trying to be a better you. Know what I mean? Some of these cats [people] out here ain’t doing nothing.
Me: Yeah, it is a struggle, though. My life is much better now, but it ain’t too late for you.
Craig: Nah, little homie—it’s way too late. I am far too deep in this . . . ya know?
Me: Nah, if God could bring me out of the hood, then he can bring anyone up out of the hood. The person will need to have a desire to leave.
Craig: [laughing] Look at you, Juicy—you about to start preaching out here.
Craig: But nah, I respect you and what you do. I don’t respect some of these other preachers out here—but because I know and see how the Big Man Upstairs be coming through for you, I ain’t gonna lie, I be interested in trying him out, ya know?
At the end of A Naked Christian, Part 1, I raised a question: “Could it be then, that when Jesus calls disciples to pick up their cross, he is calling them to live a life of transparency?” This question was based on the assumption that Jesus was fully naked on the cross. If we were to assume that Jesus was fully naked on the cross, are there some implications that might point to the life of a disciple since Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be my disciple, they must deny themselves and pick up their cross” (Matt 16:24)? Interestingly enough, the first reference to any form of nakedness in the Bible is found in the Genesis creation narrative. Prior to the entrance of sin in Gen 3:6-7, Adam and Eve were naked. Nakedness was the norm for the man and the woman until they ate of the fruit that was forbidden by God. When they sinned against God, their nakedness was exposed. What is it about sin that exposes a person to a transparent reality of his or her condition? In response to their realized nakedness, Adam and Eve eagerly sewed fig leaves together to cover their nakedness. But why? Why were they ashamed? Are there any connections between their attempt to cover their nakedness and Christ’s nakedness on the cross?
Generally speaking, nakedness exposes everything found on an individual or thing, leaving nothing hidden. Figuratively, nakedness exposes the question and the answer. Nakedness exposes the disease and the cure. Nakedness exposes the good and the bad, the pretty and the ugly, the attractive and the unattractive aspects of an individual or thing. Could it be that there was some sort of duality happening simultaneously when Jesus was hanging naked? Could it be that the naked Jesus was both highlighting the beauty of the image-bearers of God found in every fabric of humanity’s allegiance to divinity, and concurrently exposing the sin that has fractured the relationship between Divinity and humanity? This duality confronts humanity’s brokenness while leading to a potential conversion for the sake of reconciliation (as with the centurion in Mark 15:39).
Transparency attracts broken people to a God who became broken just so broken people can be transformed into the image of God. In the above conversation between my friend Craig and me, though I left the hood, I presented myself as one who was and is broken while also showcasing the work of God moving in my life. The lack of transparency in churches and among Christians leaves the unchurched, or non-Christians, with unanswered questions about whether God can (or will) forgive them for what they’ve done. The world does not need more preachers and sermons that articulate God’s grace for humanity (there are thousands of sermons on YouTube for FREE). Maybe the story of God’s grace that is being articulated by clergy and Christians needs to put on flesh and body and move into the world of people like Craig. For instance, maybe the drug addict needs a reformed drug addict to present himself or herself as morally naked with the attempt to show how God has and continues to work in the life of a reformed drug addict.
The cross is communicating to Christians that we don’t have to sew fig leaves together anymore; instead, we can openly embrace the grace that covers our transparent brokenness. It is time for Christians to hang naked on the cross with Christ for the sake of relating to sinners, while also reminding them of a place where they once were and inviting them to a place of radical transformation. Christ wants us to not only hang around the cross, but to hang with him on the Cross.
Steven J. Brice is a proud New Yorker. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Christian Counseling from Amberton University and a Master of Divinity degree in Missions from Abilene Christian University. Steven and his wife Regina live in Dallas with their son Brian and daughter Brooklynn. The Brices and a few friends are planning to move to Philadelphia to join in God’s mission there. Lastly, the Brice family are the successful owners of Brice Enterprise & Choice A Real Estate Services.