Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Finding the Sacred in the Secular : Part 4: "What Not to Wear"

A very sticky topic among some churches in predominately mainline denominations revolves around clothing. Because of its apparent “elephant in the room” persona, the topic of “What Not to Wear…” fits perfectly in our series, “Finding the Sacred in the Secular.”

Perry Noble shared in a message how a woman approached him after a service one Sunday and said, “Who are you?” He replied that he was the pastor. She smirked and stated, “Well, I never saw a pastor wear anything other than a suit to church. I thought we were supposed to give God our best!” Perry did not miss a beat as he pointed to his Timberlands and said, “Ma’am, these are Timberlands and they are the most expensive shoes I own. I am giving my very, very best.” Perry preaches every week dressed casually.

You guessed it… this episode of “Finding the Sacred in the Secular” is about clothing. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that “clothing” is “secular”… but I am saying that some of our views relating to “what NOT to wear” and “what TO wear” may be legalistic and irrelevant. Whew… I said it.
There is nothing in the Word signifying what garments should be worn to church by either gender. Leadership in a church or denomination have simply adopted “preferences” and mandated them as law. I have often heard a passage from the Old Testament that seems to pop up anytime appropriate dress is discussed.

"The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God" (Deuteronomy 22:5, KJV).

The context of this passage is the second giving of the law to the nation of Israel as they are poised to enter into the Promised Land. Hold onto you’re your trousers ladies…. Deuteronomy 22:5 is an admonition not to live as a transvestite. This has to do with more than just the clothes that a person is wearing, but speaks to living a life that emulated in every way a sex that was opposite than the one that the person was born in.

Transvestitism was a practice of the Canaanites, and Israel was to consider it an abomination. Can we take a principle from this and apply it to our lives as believers? Yes. However, when we do so, we must use it in the context in which it is given and do so in relation to the dispensation of grace.

The issue is that all believers should wear modest clothing all of the time. Whether or not that includes (for example) a woman wearing dress or a pair of slacks, it is one's own conscience before the LORD that should be the arbiter of their choice. If a man or woman allows her outward appearance to be the measure of his/her inward relationship with Christ, he/she is living under the constraints of legalism.

The Apostle Paul writes, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any" (1 Corinthians 6:12, KJV).

Born again men and women are free in Christ to wear whatever modest apparel they choose and the only judgment that they should be under is that of their own conscience. "…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23, KJV).
We are not to allow our consciences to be dictated to by "legalism" and the consciences of others, but by our own relationship with Christ.

"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

I read a book once where the author was told that she as a pastor would be more approachable if she were to dress in skirts/dresses only, nylons and closed toed shoes. She went on to share that the only people she was “approached” by when dressing that way had been people already in the church, but when she was even a little more conservative unsaved and unchurched women would flock to her in droves thanking her for being “real and approachable.”

I don’t know about you, but if I need assistance in Wal-Mart I look for someone who looks like they know how to help me. There is a reason the greeters and associates in Wal-mart wear vests with a smiley face on them and not three piece suits.

I would venture to say that possibly 60% of Christian churches have found the “sacred in the secular” relating to the issue of clothing. Churches like NewSpring, Elevation and Redemption World Outreach have a “come as you are” environment that flows from the pastors to the staff to the church member to the lost. Jesus never told the men he chose as disciples to go home and clean up before they followed Him, He called them as they were and they followed as they were. Personally, I have preached dressed to the nines and I have preached in blue jeans. The same results were achieved, people came to Christ, their lives were empowered by the God and they made decisions to become fully devoted followers of Christ. Isn’t that really what it is all about?

I know I will receive some email that will state that women should dress certain ways or drape themselves with scarves and blankets because men are visually stimulated and they should not be “teased.” I agree partially… that is where modesty comes in, for both parties. However, allow me to say as tactfully as I know how… if a man lacks self control when it comes to being stimulated sexually, no amount of material, scarf or pantyhose will prevent him from being stimulated. The only difference is he will be imagining what lies underneath all of that cloth!

This is a tough topic because it is one that has been addressed culturally, to be honest, I have NO idea how to close. Perhaps this scripture will seal it best…
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.” 1Peter 3:3-4Love & Blessings,


1 comment:

Pastor L said...

My husband has said on many occasions, "I am 100% for modesty, but it is not the job of the female population to guard my heart and keep me from lusting. That's MY job!"

I agree with you on the interpretation of those verses...and as a children's pastor, it is usually more modest for me to minister in pants than in a skirt :o).