The Creation of Red Clothes: A Genealogy

Every particular sin, no matter the color, has the same genealogy. Sin is aways the product of (a) a desire (b) based on a deception (c) organized against love. All desires based on deceptions organized against love (i.e., ultimately displaced desires) can be called temptations. Temptations are experienced as an appeal to freedom, but they are precisely the opposite because they ultimately function to enslave freedom to desire, not to satisfy desire through freedom. Such temptations are not an appeal to freedom but an appeal to pride. Pride always feels like the freedom because pride always gets to say, “My will be done.” But human freedom is not simply the power of the will to act; it is the power of the will to love, because love is the ultimate and essential human desire. With the will not oriented toward its proper end the power of the will to act is nothing more than the will to power, the drive of life toward infinite desire rather than infinite satisfaction. It attends to an indefinite future without ever reaching the present moment; it is the urgent now, not the eternal now. It is about survival, not life, the will’s appetite for more, not the will’s concern for you. Pride may draw a crowd, but it struggles to make eye-contact.

The awareness of death gives occasion for freedom to be confused with pride. Despite the intuitive reflex of this awareness to open us up toward others in longing, and ultimately to open us up to that longing into which God can breath hope against hope in order to make a space into which he can breath faith, it also closes us up in fear. Life exists in oscillations—expanding, contracting, expanding, contracting, trusting and giving, closing up and self-preserving. It is always in process, but in the final analysis life in the face of death is bent toward pride, mistrust, self-preservation. Fear of death has more gravity than fear of God. Indeed, it is “through fear of death” that we are “subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:15).

And thus, pride is the counterfeit of freedom and the antithesis of love. Its essential structure is pure inwardness. It operates on a disordered appetite for power without aim according to a primal mistrust and withdraw. Its goal is isolation—by way of either retreat or triumph. It can be felt as hollowing shame or gasoline powers, but both are pride.

Pride can wear crowns at the top of towers, but shame is merely pride in sheep’s clothing.

The eyes of the couple were opened and they are now naked and very ashamed. So they hide from one another. Bone of Adam’s bone is now just plain ol’ flesh of Eve’s flesh. No longer are they one flesh–it was nuclear fission in the nuclear family. They hear God-sized footsteps. They hide. God confronts Adam. He points away, to the woman, as if God would be judge at divorce court?! But Adam tries, as we all try, to distance himself from the greater guilt—as though human guilt can be separated; as though the two weren’t a hypostatic union; as though Eve were not bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh; as though we are not all the seed of Adam’s loin; as though it weren’t through one man’s disobedience that sin enters the world and death through sin; as though it weren’t through one man’s obedience that the many will be made righteous.

But God does not simply put the blame on Eve, nor does he simply put the blame on the serpent. Nor does he simply put the blame on all three, although he does condemn all three, because all three are guilty. But he finds a place to put the blame, a willing party.

Looking down at the pitiful couple, hiding behind tattered fig leaves barely able to withstand the Garden breeze, he calls forth a lamb—the whitest lamb in the garden, a lamb without spot or blemish. It obeys. It comes in silence. They want to look away, but he does not let them look away. They need to see the cost of grace. “A Lamb of Sorrows: your transgressions, his wounds; his chastisement, your peace; his stripes, your healing. You have strayed, but he has come to be slaughtered for your iniquities; innocent, but numbered among sinners.”

The whitest wool now forever stained in a dark crimson that would forever remain: the color of guilt and the color of grace, the color of the intersection—the intersection where God unites with sinners.

Love wears thorns at the top of the intersection–it is grace in sheep’s clothing.

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