Earlier today, I read a well written article on a popular Christian website. The name of the website escapes me, though. The name of the article is the same as this blogs title. The conclusion of the article was basically “Yes. God cares.”
Without going into the details of the article (mainly because I can’t remember), I will touch on some reasons that I believe their conclusion was correct, but I will give one reason that I believe they missed altogether.
One often quoted “Bible verse” that’s not found in the Bible is “Come as you are.” Yes, this verse is not in the Bible. However, the concept is. The Gospel message itself is that you bring your sinful, broken self to God and He makes you into a new creature. He changes your heart and conforms you into the image of his Son. So basically we don’t fix ourselves before we come to God. We can’t. We come to God as we are and let him do the changing to us.
In the context of how we dress for church, the phrase “come as you are” is used quite often. The article I mentioned above touches on this phrase. What I think they left out is that, if we are truly saved, we come as we are but we aren’t supposed to stay as we are. When God changes our hearts, even the way we dress may change. And if the way we used to dress was immodest then it is my strong conviction that how one dresses would change also.
I know that anytime the topic is brought up most people immediately think about how some women show up to church. Mine does. However, in no way should this apply to women only. While women may wear skirts or dresses that are too short, men might wear shirts or pants that are too tight.
I’m often told by the older saints that the “church mothers” or ushers would place a small blanket over the exposed legs or shoulders of younger ladies that they feel are dressed immodestly for church. I think there was a time where we expected the older folks in church to hold the younger believers accountable. But now we sneer at anyone who tries to tell us that what we’re doing or what we’re wearing might not be appropriate, even in church. We think no one can judge us but God. We have to remember, though, that “Do not judge” is not a stand-alone verse. Judging rightly is a command stated over and over in Scripture. But are we to judge those who aren’t believers? The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:12, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” The outsiders he mentioned here are unbelievers. Paul is saying not to hold unbelievers to the same standard of Christians.
So maybe an unbeliever or a new believer comes through the church doors wearing something we deem immodest. What do we do as believers? First let’s look inward. As my mom used to tell me “If I point one finger at you I have 3 more pointing back at me.” Scripture says in Matthew, chapter 7, “first pull the plank out of your own eye so that you may see clearly to get the speck out of your brothers eye.”
Second, we should ask ourselves if what we claim to be immodest is just tradition mistaken as God’s word. Is it a woman wearing pants? Does the Bible forbid women to wear pants when there were no pants in the Bible? Is it that a man is wearing shorts and sandals? Is that immodest or just not how we think people should dress in church? Is someone wearing jeans when you think they’re supposed to have on a suit immodest? Are any of these examples inappropriate for church? Not really but if it bothers the wearers conscience then, for him, it is. No one should go against their conscience (Romans 14:23). On the other hand, some articles of clothing are inappropriate for church. If an individual is showing too much skin or can barely sit or walk up stairs because they’re afraid of exposing something, it might be a bit much for church. If your clothing is so tight that it leaves little to the imagination, then it’s probably best you leave it at home. If the clothing is so flashy that you’re getting all the attention, maybe save it for another occasion. The focus during church service should be on God, not ourselves.
Going back to the title, the subject is “we”. Who is the “we” in the title? “Churchgoers” one may say. Well, in every attempt to find the original article that I read with that title, I see many Christian websites have articles with the same title. So, to me, the “we” is not just churchgoers but believers. To me asking the question if God cares what we wear to church is akin to asking if God cares how we act, talk, dress, and think in any situation. The answer is emphatically yes!
For the Christian, according to Martin Luther, there are two kinds of righteousness. There is coram Deo and coram mundo. Coram Deo is our righteousness before God. Coram mundo is our righteousness before man, like how we treat each other. As we gather on Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, or whenever we gather with the saints, we should dress and speak and act in a way that does not cause stumbling to other believers. Our Christian life is not only for our benefit but it should be for the benefit of those within our sphere of influence and for the edification of the Church body. I would dare say that there is no true Christian independence. We’re all in this together.
The way we dress is also a reflection of our coram Deo. To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God. The way we dress, act, speak, and think should always give glory to God. If God has truly changed who we are then the way we think and act will reflect who we are in him. The moon reflects the light it gets from the sun. In the same way the Christian should reflect the light it gets from God. Like the moon, the Christian has no light in and of itself. The moon gives testimony to the existence of the sun. The Christian should likewise give testimony to the existence of God. If there is no change in the life of the Christian from his or her former self or a change in the life of the Christian from the unsaved world around them, then they aren’t giving glory to God. And if they aren’t reflecting the light of God then, perhaps the light of God is not in them.
In conclusion, the problem with the “come as you are” mentality, is that as a Christian, we are not supposed to stay as we are. We are supposed to change from the person we used to be. There is supposed to be an obvious difference in the person we were and the person we are in Christ. There is supposed to be an abundant difference in unbelievers and believers. At times that means our wardrobe changes also. So let us look up, out, and in. During service, as we gather to worship The Most High God (up), let us come in reverence. Let us not forget He is holy and commands us to be holy as He is holy. Let us also do what is in our power to not cause our fellow believers (out) to stumble. Lastly, let us look and judge ourselves (in) first before we tell or suggest anyone else change how they come to worship God. Remember, man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
Grace. We all need to show each other grace. Even in judgement, we have to extend grace. We extend grace because we have been shown the grace of God. If a brother or sister in Christ needs correction, we should be graceful about it. Likewise, we should be graceful in receiving correction. Sometimes God uses God’s people to do God’s work.
Derrick Stokes for Theologetics.org