Help! I don’t know what to wear to Church. Ever said those words? I have, and I’ve heard them plenty of times. Why the hang up with clothes? I ask that sincerely and not trying to be sarcastic. Why are we so dysfunctional when it comes to what we’re going to wear to Church? That’s been on my mind lately. Probably a little more than it should.
There’s two answers to that question, although there might be others I haven’t thought of. First, we worry about how we look all the time! We worry about how we look too much of the time. We are constantly worrying about how we look. We idolize looks! It would be only natural then for us to act on Sunday morning the same way we act on Monday morning, Tuesday morning, Wednesday morning, etc., etc. Is that too harsh? Is my paint brush a little too wide? Maybe. But not by much if it is.
Here’s the second reason, as far as I can tell. We’ve been trained and programmed to “dress up” for Church. Every society has cultural norms. And one of our norms is that we get dressed up for weddings, funerals and to go to Church. But why? That’s the question I’m most curious in. Here’s a more specific question. If everything we do when it comes to our faith is supposed to come from the Bible then where does it talk about what we wear to worship? Well, it doesn’t actually – at all, ever. What’s more, there’s really no substantial examples in the extra-Biblical literature dealing with it either. So if it’s not in the Bible, should we (the Church) be upholding cultural norms? Hmm . . . yes and no.
Let me go ahead and let my cat out of the bag. This issue has become a sticking point for me. I am biased on this one. And as much as I try to stay objective, I’m not. I am strongly biased and slanted . . . towards the Bible. So that having been said, here’s a few thoughts on this issue (and it is an issue, at least in some churches). Because God never came down on one side or the other then I have no right to either. In life I always try to stay on God’s side – even when He doesn’t pick one. And since He said nothing about it, then I won’t either. That means that I don’t have the right to tell someone else how to dress, period. Of course there’s a common-sense caveat. This is assuming we’re not talking about sin (modesty, being a blatant temptation for others, etc).
Now let me switch sides and talk out of the other side of my mouth. As a preacher, I realize that there are culturally norms out there. And one of those cultural norms is that we dress up for Church – especially the preacher. If it were up to me, I would wear sandals, jeans and an un-tucked button-down shirt with sleeves rolled up. Why, because that’s what I wear every day. It’s what makes me comfortable. But the catch is, it’s not up to me. It’s up to my Brothers and Sisters who I love more than my personal freedoms. It’s up to the non-Christian that I have never met who might step into a Church building for the time in years.
When I became a follower of Christ, I chose to become a slave to Christ. I also chose to die to myself so that I can truly live for Him. So when it comes to issues like this (issues that don’t matter to HIM), I can’t afford to forget that I am still His slave, called to do His work and help as many of His children find their way home. See this whole thing is a matter of spiritual maturity. (Put your big boy pants on for a moment). Anyone who demands that someone should or should not wear particular clothing is adjudicating their own personal opinions and preferences and as a result are demonstrating a lack of spiritual maturity. Likewise, anyone who says, “I can wear whatever I want” is also demonstrating a lack of spiritual maturity. In both instances, the person is demonstrating that they are slaves to themselves by seeking after their own interests – instead of the interests of the one who they claim to be a servant of. So, I suppose that also makes both people a hypocrite.
While in the middle of his argument on principles of conscience, Paul writes this:
For not one of us lives for himself, and not one of us dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord; therefore, whether we live or we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God . . . Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this – not to put an obstacle or stumbling block in a brother’s way. – Romans 14:7-10, 13
So here’s my bottom line on all this. I’m going to wear a tie and usually a jacket when I preach. Not because I like to or want to. But because there’s a chance that it might bother someone if I don’t. And I am committed to never knowingly taking a chance on being a stumbling block to a brother in Christ. Likewise, if someone chooses to wear jeans and a t-shirt to worship, I’m going to shake their hand, give them a hug and thank God that they made the decision to be there with me to worship of God together.
More of Him and less of me will take me to where I want to be.