Do Our Attitudes About Clothes Hinder The Gospel?
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
The question has been asked, “do we foster an environment where sinners are welcome, or the impression they must come looking like ‘us’.”
Are we making a distinction?
What does looking like “us” mean anyways? And who is “us”? The righteous chosen vs. the unclean masses?
The fact is we are all sinners. Thank God for his grace that removes the guilt of our sin, makes us new and clothes us in Christ’s righteousness.
Until we get new bodies, however, I’m thinking we might not want to make such an outward distinction between us sinners and other sinners when it comes to how we dress.
Not making clothes an issue… at all!
Regardless of your take on this hot topic, lets just drop it, can we? There are as many opinions as there are believers in the church about clothing.
Let’s move from opinion to God’s word which is very strong on dropping this as an issue and can challenge us in surprising ways.
An internal transformation
Back to Romans 12:2. Transformation is internal and profound… literally changing us from the inside out. Conforming is simply working towards an outward appearance that puts on airs of spirituality among believers and perhaps – even worse – the unsaved that dare to venture into our doors.
Emphasis upon outward appearance, and the attachment of external objects to spiritual significance, is confusing and stumbling to those who are genuinely seeking and wanting to be followers of Christ.
Coming as they are
Even in cases where the unsaved are wearing attire with profanity or other kinds of inappropriateness, it is quite likely not an intentional affront and reveals a kind of transparency, that is refreshing, if distasteful.
The attitude of grace and compassion should rule our hearts in response. The mundane issues of choice of dress, style and preference can sometimes become obsessions based on what our own preference is.
How does God see us?
Focusing on the outward inadvertently gives us a sense of superiority if we fit within whatever we define outward spirituality to be. We need to look at the fundamental principle of 1 Samuel 16:7 which illustrates that God looks at things a certain way, and the natural man looks at things differently.
As believers who are drawn to be more like our leader, Jesus Christ, we might want to consider how He looks at things. Clearly, he looks at the heart.
This is the very thing we can sometimes neglect in favor of outward appearance. And the very thing the unsaved are desperately asking, “Can any of you religious people be real and talk to my heart?”
The words of the Lord are important
In Matthew 5:16 the Lord calls believers the ‘light of the world’, and what the believers are to be focused on expressing is our good works and compassion, not how we, or others appear. What kind of light are we shining?
In Matthew 23 the Lord illustrates superficiality at its worst as shown by the Pharisees. In addition to their long list of fake forms of Godliness, He calls them white-washed graves, that are full of dead men’s bones focused on appearing righteous to others.
In so doing, they literally shut the door of heaven in people’s faces. Are we inadvertently shutting the door of heaven in people’s faces by focusing on outward appearance?
James tells it as it is
In James 2:1-4, there is very clear and strong language, that we are not to judge by outward appearance, especially in the context of the local church.
No partiality is to be shown to the person in fine clothing versus the person in shabby clothing. This is equated to making judgments about others, by making distinctions between people by how they dress. This is called out for what it is: “evil thoughts”.
In Colossians 2:23 we have the outward justification by the law as only an appearance of wisdom and religious activity. It is equated to self-made religion and showy extreme acts of self-denial that are useless in resolving the sin that is inside. Are we indicating to the unsaved that we are saved by the law of the flesh?
I could go on and on… We could look at Galatians 6:12, Romans 2:28-29, Hebrews 4, Luke 7:25-28, Isaiah 53:2 and many others.
Becoming relevant in areas that matter
May we simply be culturally relevant in our dress, dropping it as a concern with the saved and the unsaved, so that the gospel of Christ may be unhindered to both.
So that sinners whether saved or not, see our gatherings as safe spaces and are not distracted by something so inconsequential to the kingdom of Heaven, as attire.