I got a mailout not too long ago inviting me to a new church that is starting up in the Birmingham area. One of their “selling points” was that you could wear jeans if you wanted. What a concept!
I’m surprised that would even be an issue any more, but we know how much it is. “Dress codes,” or lack thereof, are important in our decision making, whether it be where we work, where we eat, where we play, or even where we worship.
The problem is, those dress codes are relative. What you would wear in church in the Bible-belt isn’t what you’d wear in southern California. And those dress codes are always changing–another one of those “paradigm shifts” in our culture.
When I was in seminary I was told that I should never preach without a suit on–not just a coat-and-tie combination, but a full suit. And we were also strongly encouraged to always have our coats buttoned when walking into the pulpit. “A sure sign of a sloppy preacher is an unbuttoned coat!” I wonder if you’re still considered a sloppy preacher if you don’t even wear a coat.
The point is, clothes really don’t matter in how you come to God. Yes, the Bible does instruct us to be modest in our choice of clothes. But otherwise, if you were to try to come up with a dress code from Scripture, you’d be hard pressed to find any consistency.
Perhaps we could all dress like John the Baptist, who wore a Fred Flintstone-looking camel-hair suit (check out the description in Mark’s gospel and see if you don’t agree!). Or, maybe Jacob, with his goatskin outfit, or his son Joseph, with his coat of many colors, could be our fashion guides. Of course, that coat almost cost Joseph his life!
The more carefree among us might prefer to dress like King David, who did a public worship dance in his underwear (or more specifically, his “linen ephod”). Or, for the more discreet, solemn look, sackcloth and ashes are a popular choice from the Old Testament.
I prefer the Biblical admonition of the apostle Peter, on how we dress in church: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5) Now that’s how you dress for success.
I hope to see each of you in your “Sunday best” this Sunday.