Sunday, April 27, 2014

Church Clothes

Proper Attire for Christians

There are clear scriptural references that provide guidelines for how we ought to dress as Christians.

1 Timothy 2:9-10  In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.

While this particular section of verses applies primarily to women, for all of us “professing godliness” we must be aware of how we are presenting ourselves.  As Christians we are told to dress modestly, decently, and, as with all things, self-control.  If we are walking about half naked or overly adorned with expensive attire there would be little to visibly differentiate us from the secular world.  As Christians we are called to be “in the world, but not of the world.”  This applies to our conduct as well as our attire.

However, beyond these guidelines, there is little to suggest that we, as God’s people, need a “dress code”.
In fact, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Himself tells us to not worry about such physical things.

Matthew 6:30-32  Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

It is society that develops and dictates particular protocols for fashion deemed appropriate for various occasions, not God.

“Church Clothes”

 “It’s time for church!  Put on your church clothes!” is something we may have heard our parents say when we were younger.  “Church clothes” or “Your Sunday Best” is attire that we associate with what church-goers wear to attend services and while it varies from place to place, it typically constitutes dressing up, wearing your finest clothes.  Interestingly enough, “church clothes” are often considered to be the same clothes that were appropriate for weddings, funerals, and formal events of every other sort.

It’s understandable that we want to give our best to God and that we want to render the respect that is due to Him as we go to worship.  However, if we are not careful, this idea of “church clothes” can actually be detrimental to our cause of seeking to bring the world to Christ.

There is no dress code for the Church!

Imagine a situation in which we encounter two men:  one with fine clothing, dressed to the nines with a nice suit and tie and the other wearing nothing but rags.  Both of these men walk into the church building.  I wonder how we would respond to these individuals.  Would we respond with a welcoming love to both, or only the one dressed in what we deem the “appropriate attire”?

James 2:2-4  For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

John 7:24  Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.

We must remember that we are commanded to not judge others and to not show partiality!

I’ll never forget a particular instance in my life that I will probably always regret.  While in college I had been asking a friend of mine for some time to go to Wednesday night Bible study with me at the local church.  He had turned down the offer on many occasions, so I was surprised when one day after he had gotten off of work that he finally said that he would like to go.

Having just got off of work, my friend had changed into his “lounge clothes”:  shorts, a t-shirt and sandals.  Hoping to spare him some possible embarrassment, I attempted to tactfully ask him if he was going to change, telling him what I normally wore.

Well, my friend decided not to go after all following this discussion, and I don’t blame him.  I had misrepresented the church by implying that there was a “dress code”.  I should have just told him to come as he was.  Perhaps I could have changed clothes myself to reflect his attire to make him feel more comfortable.
Think about the attire of the righteous in the Scriptures.  Jesus Himself in His fleshly body was the son of a carpenter; it is doubtful that He wore the best robes.  Likewise, many of the Apostles came from the working class.  Jesus commanded them to be prepared for travel in their journeys, telling them to wear sandals and only one tunic.

Think about John the Baptist, whom Jesus said “among those born of women there is not a greater prophet…” (Luke 7:28) was "clothed in camel’s hair” (Matthew 3:4)!

Clothing did not hinder these individuals from serving God!

A quick clarification before continuing:  I understand the desire to give our best to God in all things, including our attire when it comes to worship and I am by no means condemning that.  However, I think that dressing one’s “best” varies from individual to individual based on a variety of social and economic factors.  As long as we are dressing modestly, I believe that God is pleased.


Our Spiritual “Dress Code”

Rather than focusing on our outward attire, I believe that God is far more concerned with our spiritual condition.

1 Peter 3:2-4  Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

We often forget that our physical bodies are temporary and that it is our soul that is what will linger on after our bodily death.  As the author C.S. Lewis stated:  “You don’t have a soul.  You are a Soul.  You have a body.”

If we were able through the means of some sort of super x-ray to look beyond our physicality and to see our own soul, that “hidden person of the heart” spoken of in 1 Peter, what is it that we would see?  In what condition would our spiritual clothing be?  Would we be presentable to God or not?

The Parable of the Wedding Feast

Jesus speaks of this type of clothing in the parable of the wedding feast, in which a king arranged a wedding for his son and sent out servants to invite guests.  Eventually, guests were found and brought to the feast.

Matthew 22:11-14   “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.  So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.  Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

This is a situation in which attire is very important!  If we are to be called the chosen of God, we must act accordingly, being clothed in righteousness!  If this is not the attire we are found wearing upon the Day of Judgment, we will be cast out.

Clothing for the Priesthood/Clothing for the Bride

The book of Leviticus primarily details instructions to the Levites, the priests of the Israelites.  Among the commandments given to the priesthood, was a strict code of how they ought to dress.
While we are not under the Old Law as the Israelites were, we must remember that as Christians, we are also chosen as priests to God.

1 Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

The Levites were the priesthood in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament it falls to each individual Christian to assume this responsibility.  And just as the Levites were given a strict code of dress, Christians must also adhere to a certain standard of spiritual attire…  We have a wedding of our own to prepare for!

Ephesians 5:25-27  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,  that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 

The Church is sometimes referred to as being the Bride of Christ.  Just as an earthly bride wears the color white to signify her purity, the Church must present itself pure and white to Christ on the Day of Judgment!

Revelation 19:6-9  And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!  Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.  Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”

Conclusion - “Put on Christ”

But we can’t become pure and white on our own.  We need the power of Christ to make this possible.

Romans 13:13-14 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

How are we representing the faith through our words and actions?  Do people see a reflection of Christ when they see us?

How does one “put on Christ”?

Galatians 3:26-27  For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

It is through baptism that we put on Christ.  Following baptism our soul is cleansed, free from sin.  Now we must seek to keep our new adornment spotless…

Ephesians 4:17-24  This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind,  having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ,  if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:  that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,  and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,  and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

As Christians, we must realize that we are ambassadors of Christ to the world.  We must “dress” accordingly.  Are you ready to put on your “church clothes”?

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