Curmudgeon: – a crusty, irascible, cantankerous old person full of stubborn ideas. (The Free Dictionary)
“Looking good isn’t self-importance; it’s self-respect.” Charles Hix
OK, OK, I tried it! Now get off my back! After several years of listening to the clothing police (or, as they were known in Bible times, Pharisees) harp on the importance of being contemporary in pulpit attire, I broke down and preached a few week night services with my shirttail hanging out. If there was any tangible difference in the way God used me, I couldn’t tell it. There was, however, a significant difference in the way I felt about myself. I didn’t like feeling like an old guy pretending to be a teenager. (at least I have hair, unlike some practitioners of church coolitude.)
Let me be clear: Within the bounds of decency, wear what you like to church. (I will probably do a tirade on “decency” at a later date.) My wife will testify, I really don’t notice, unless you happen to look particularly good. If you feel comfortable in the gathering of the blood-bought family of the Most Holy God in shorts and a crumpled t-shirt, smartly paired with flip-flops, so be it. For me, it just doesn’t work.
When I came to the Lord in 1979, I was a 31-year-old recently reformed hippie, drug-addict, and general malcontent. I didn’t own a suit or a tie. The next year, I went to bible school, married a lovely Christian woman, and set out to win the world for Jesus. For bible school I had to cut my hair and trim my moustache, as well as get some decent slacks and shirts. For the wedding, I purchased a suit for the first time since high school. It was a big deal. In the process, I noticed something: I liked the way I looked and felt. That had not happened in a very long time.
So, here’s the deal: I like wearing a suit. The tie is optional, but it does provide a great way for the male of the species to have a little pizzazz and still be nicely attired. For me, not for you, for me, my attire says something about the activity I am involved in and the people to whom I am speaking. It is a token of respect. I was watching the funeral service for Senator McCain the other day, and I noticed that all the men on the platform were in suit and tie. Not a muscle shirt in the bunch. They did that because of the weight of the activity and their respect for the audience.
The work that I do, particularly on Sunday, is the most important job in the world. I am representing God. As the Bible says, I am speaking “as the oracles of God.” The people to whom I am speaking came out of respect for the Savior who gave His life in their stead, who now claims their fealty, and who promises to shepherd them safely home. They are the family of God gathered to honor their Master. It’s a big deal.
How about we come to an understanding? I won’t judge you for your sartorial choices, nor try to make you wear the same thing I do. You can dress in whatever way that reflects your assessment of the nature of your activity and the message you want to communicate to the people around you. In return, I simply ask that you give me the same liberty, OK?
Joshua was standing there, wearing filthy clothes. The angel said to his heavenly attendants, “Take away the filthy clothes this man is wearing.” Then he said to Joshua, “I have taken away your sin and will give you new clothes to wear.” (Zechariah 3:3-4 GNB)