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Dressing for Church

An article in the “Living” section of The Orlando Sentinel (September 1998) grabbed my attention. The gist of the article, “‘Church’ Clothes Losing Pious Devotion to Style” is the debate over whether one should dress up for church services or “come as you are.” One of the arguments for dressing up was, “When you go out and meet a very important person, we all dress up. It’s a sign of respect and admiration.” There was also the implication that someone’s dress reflected that person’s spiritual preparation for Sunday services.

Just like prayer, I feel this is another one of those areas in which “man” has made the rules and guidelines of what is appropriate, then has attempted to spiritualize it and say it’s godly by sprinkling in spiritual-sounding adjectives and adverbs. This just drives me crazy.

For the first argument of “dressing up” to have any merit, one would have to interpret the statement to mean that one can meet with God only at church, and should be dressed up whenever He is met. If this had any truth to it, I would be in big trouble because I have met God in just about every location and every dress that can be imagined. I’ve worshiped Him in the car, sitting at my office desk, on the beach and on a mountaintop. More than even in the church building, I’ve worshiped Him in the privacy of my home in such places as the kitchen, on the couch, in the bedroom, in the bed, and even in the shower! That means I could’ve been in jeans, in a night shirt, or even wearing nothing!

Scripture is clear that “man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” Why is it we tend to believe God’s Word until it conflicts with our own attitudes? I’ve never read anywhere that God has a dress code, so why do churches? As the article implies, I, too, have been in churches where style and quality of clothing divide the members into a type of caste system. I hardly think Jesus would care what someone is wearing if his/her heart attitude was truly one of worship. While I do agree with wearing what’s appropriate when attending a formal church service, the question has become, “what is appropriate?” If I go to the beach or to a pool, the appropriate clothing is a bathing suit. Common sense tells me that wearing a bathing suit to church is not appropriate because my intent in going to church is not to swim. Some churches have gone too far in saying that the expected clothing for a man is a suit and tie, or a dress for a woman. If I am properly covered, what’s the difference if I wear jeans or a fancy dress?

The purpose of gathering together as a body of believers, whether it be on a Sunday morning, a Sunday night, a Wednesday night, or any other time of the week, is to encourage each other, to come together in one accord to build each other up and strengthen each other in the Lord. We’re not meeting for the Lord’s sake, but for ourselves. So the bottom line question really is, for whom are we really dressing?

If the church is supposed to be a reflection of Christ, then it should be reacting to people as Jesus would react – loving, caring, forgiving, open-armed, accepting all colors and types alike. Instead, too many churches have become social entities, much like the local country club. In order to be accepted as a member in good standing, one must have a certain place in society, make a certain amount of money and dress a certain way. Shame on us!

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