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Is This Christian Clothing?

There is an interesting phenomena that occurs many times on Sundays (and Saturdays) in our churches throughout the world that confuses me to some extent.  Its the idea that the multitudes are going to church in their Christian clothing; or their "Sunday best."  This usually means that folks set aside the cleanest, most formal clothing for church services.  In many Christian denominations, one can actually look out of place if not in a formal dress or suit and tie.

There is indication (historically speaking) that one method the clergy was separated from the common people was that of their clothing; be it a robe, special vestments, or other special liturgical accessories.  This began to reinforce the idea that certain men were called to minister to the church of God, while others were ministered to.  But if you search the scriptures, you would be hard pressed to find this "clergy-laity" distinction.  In fact, Jesus told His disciples to "Not be called Rabbi; for One is your teacher, and you are all brothers", (Matt. 23:8, italics mine).  In other words, Jesus was to be the Head of His church, and all the rest were part of His body-----without distinction among the brothers.  Yes, different gifts among His body, but not different rank.  Therefore, the implication from the start of His church was equality among all involved, not distinction in any form or manner; the idea being that nothing should give a visitor any clue that some have preference in the service, and others observe with little or no direct participation.

However, as the church became more of an organization with policies and regulations to follow and less of a living spiritual organism, all kinds of separation and fragmentation began to occur.  This included the formal dress of the "special class" or clergy as different from the flock they were teaching.  This type of "Christian clothing" is not the topic of this article; rather, why does the flock dress in a special way to go to church (the prime example being many who go once a year in their Easter fashions)?

I suppose one reason (I myself being a professing Christian) is that people have a desire to draw close to God, and if any one of us were to have a physical appointment with the Lord (like a job interview), how would we be prepared?  Well, we'd want to make an impression----that we're sincere; that we're serious; and that we want to be there, right?  So, having one chance to "impress" the God of the universe, we would be very careful about how clean we were, and how nice we looked.  And we'd smile a lot and give rosy answers (even if we were having a rotten day) so as to give a good impression.  But it wouldn't take long for a good interviewer to ask the right questions to see how our emotional state really is; and then, it would seem that our mental state and our clothing would be saying two different things, which would begin to communicate a fabrication on our part.

Well, then, am I saying that we should dress bright and sunny when we feel great, and plain and black when we are in the pit of despair?  Hardly.  But how many times have you seen someone at church let the real side of themselves come out (like anger, frustration, or cynicism) while smiling and looking so "holy"?  Are people masking their real struggles and hurts with a contrary outward appearance so as to not have to deal with pain and "issues"?  Probably so in many church services each weekend throughout the land.

But surely another reason that we dress formally for services would have to be that we believe deep down in our psyche that we are trying be acceptable to this Deity we come to come to worship.  Or, that God expects "champions of faith", and we should dress like we are champions for Him.  Being on this mindset ("Therefore, you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect", Matt. 5:48) can put us in the frame of mind that we need to be acting and looking as "perfect" and "holy" as possible when we enter church buildings.  But, why do we dress up so much on Sundays for service, and dress "normally" at the Wednesday night prayer meeting or the Thursday night choir meeting?  I believe that examples such as this show that we tend to honor a "day" or a "service" more than a union with the living God.

Or is it that we dress up on Sunday so that we can impress those visitors who may come through the doors to find out about the God of the bible?  We dress in our "Sunday best" so that those who aren't Christians can see "happiness" and "success" and "victory".  But the message of the scripture is that our success with God is a pure heart, not pure clothing.  "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God", said Jesus in Matthew 5:8.  The right Christian clothing is whatever you happen to be wearing; as Christians, we have clothed ourselves with Christ in a spiritual sense, and are not to be engrossed with making our outward appearance what the inside already is.  I say, dress to cover the body, but come to worship in spirit Him who clothed you in "Christ clothing."


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