Casual attire is now the norm for most Churches and some of the older folks don’t like the new look. I must admit that I like it. As a kid, I hated those tight dress shirts with clip on ties and dress pants with suspenders!
Did you know that there is a biblical dress code for the Church?
It’s a dress code in keeping with the gospel and failure to dress appropriately could contradict the authenticity of our message to a world that is already cynical about the Church.
I’ll explain the dress code in a moment. First, however, I want it to be understood in the context of proclaiming the gospel because the dress code is inseparable from the gospel– the goodnews of God’s loving offer of salvation in Jesus Christ..
What is the best way to convince people of the truthfulness of the gospel?
God desires to use our lives as plausibility cases for the truthfulness of His goodnews of salvation. God has chosen to make a case for and to validate the truth of the gospel through the community life of His people.
Jesus taught this when He said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35).
The story of the Bible “speaks from first to last of a God who did not need to create, but who did so out of overflowing and generous love. It speaks of a God who did not need to redeem and recreate, but did so as the greatest possible act of self-giving love.”
“Somehow if we are to address contemporary culture with the message of the Bible, we must get used to combining two things which are normally at opposite poles—humility and truth-telling.”
“Somehow we have to tell the truth but to tell it as the liberating story, the healing story, the true story. And of course… the best way we can do this is by telling, again and again, in story and symbol and acted drama, the biblical story, focused on the story of Jesus himself, the true story of the Word made flesh. That is why the great symbol at the heart of Christianity is the symbol of the eucharist; it is the symbol of that story. But, it is our task not just to tell but to live out the story—the model of God’s self-giving love in Christ must be the basis for our self-understanding, our life, and our vocation.”
“If the Biblical story is told truly, it will subvert the alternative stories. But to tell it truly, you have to be living it” (N. T. Wright).
A mission for the Church:
We must be humble, loving, truth-telling Christians in community – living out mutual affection and honor for one another.
“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:10, NLT).
When the Church is filled with people who treat each other with honor, esteem, deference and humble service (foot washing love), we subvert the alternative stories. When we live the gospel by practicing the mind of Christ in community (see: Philippians 2:3-8), we authenticate the message. We could look at this as the dress code for the Church.
The dress code for the Church:
If you encounter people who are not dressed appropriately for Church, please encourage them to change into clothing that is appropriate to the gospel. We risk a credibility problem with the message we proclaim when we allow too many people to dress inappropriately for Christian fellowship.
Don’t be surprised if the people in really nice Church clothes are not in the attire fitting for the gospel. The people who opposed Jesus were the best dressed of society. The ones in common dress or even questionable attire were drawn to Jesus. If we hope to authenticate the truth of the gospel we proclaim, we must be dressed appropriately in Christian community! What is the dress code?
Reflect deeply on these words:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14)
Questions for deeper reflection
- How does our description as “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved” lead to the clothing of “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”? Is there a deeper identity issue to address for those inappropriately dressed?
- What piece of clothing is missing most from your wardrobe? (compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience)
- Is this the clothing of the poor in spirit?
- Share this with your leadership team and your Church.
- Study Philippians 2:1-11 in light of this truth (practicing the mind of Christ in community).