Monthly Archives: May 2008

Fashion-Conscious Faithfulness

Blind Faith (No. 22, 2008)

Fashion – everyone’s “must” wear for the season – seems to have
been a hot topic for the crowd gathered for the outdoor religious seminar.
Knowing that fashion was on their minds, Jesus applied their appetites for what
to wear to the eternal truths he was trying to get them to recognize:

And why worry about clothes? Notice how the flowers grow in the
field. They never work or spin yarn for clothes. {29} But I say that not even
Solomon in all his majesty was dressed like one of these flowers. {30} That’s
the way God clothes the grass in the field. Today it’s alive, and tomorrow it’s
thrown into an incinerator. So how much more will he clothe you people who have
so little faith? {31} Don’t ever worry and say, “What are we going to eat?” or
“What are we going to drink?” or “What are we going to wear?” {32} Everyone is
concerned about these things, and your heavenly Father certainly knows you need
all of them. {33} But first, be concerned about his kingdom and what has his
approval. Then all these things will be provided for you. (Matthew 6:28-33
GWT)

The lesson has been available for 2000 years, but people appear to be a
little slow on the uptake. Our fashion sense still seems to override our
spiritual awareness.

Jesus’ commentary on our concern with fashion and clothing runs counter
to mainline media and the countless clothing catalogs regularly arriving in our
mailboxes. Morning talk shows are produced by the news divisions of each
broadcasting network. They can provide a bit more time than the evening news
for exploring intricacies of national and international public policy, human
interest stories (health, family economics, security, etc.), and other topics
from the day’s news. Almost equal time on these shows, however, is devoted to
in-depth examination of everyone’s “must” wear fashion “news.” A typical
morning news show segment might herald the “important” shirt everyone simply
must have this season, especially since it’s so-o- o affordable at
just $169 in most stores! “Fashionistas” will fill the airwaves even
more with this week’s release of a movie, based on a cable-TV sitcom, that has
the 4 female stars modeling more than 300 wardrobe changes in the movie’s
145-minute running time. The leading character wears 81 different outfits and
dresses, an average of 1 every 1.8 minutes! The movie is expected to be one of
the summer’s box office blockbusters. Fashion obsession persists.

Surrounded as we are by social dress codes (whether we want to
acknowledge them or not), how can we aspire to the attitude toward clothing and
other cares that Jesus instructed us to have? Besides choosing clothing that
is both tasteful and modest, we can think explicitly about the uses of the
clothing imagery in the Bible. We certainly should want to be in the height of
biblical fashion as we make symbolic spiritual wardrobe choices daily.
Cable TV presents entire shows, such as What not to Wear, to
offer insights into clothing that should be avoided. No one wants to be caught
wearing the wrong thing! Paul tells us that we need to throw out some of the
spiritual clothing we have become too comfortable wearing: ” don’t live in
darkness. Get rid of your evil deeds. Shed them like dirty clothes. Clothe
yourselves with the armor of right living, as those who live in the light.”
(Romans 13:12b NLT) He catalogs such bad behavior as wild partying,
quarrelsome bickering, jealousy, and sexual misconduct as old clothing that
needs to be discarded. Paul advocates a complete wardrobe makeover: Rather,
clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to
gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13:14 NIV) Peter agrees
with Paul’s general wardrobe assessment for followers of Jesus: ” Don’t be
concerned about the outward beauty that depends on fancy hairstyles, expensive
jewelry, or beautiful clothes. {4} You should be known for the beauty that
comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is
so precious to God.” (1 Peter 3:3-4 NLT)

One of the top concerns with fashion news is how to get the featured
clothes. Paul explains that faith in Jesus that results in a transformed life,
symbolized in baptism, is the crucial component for restoring our spiritual
wardrobe: “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves
with Christ.” (Galatians 3:27 NIV) This ushers in a totally different approach
to the “must-have” spiritual garments found to be suitable attire. Eugene
Peterson’s rendering of the same text helps to set the fashion scene: ” But now
you have arrived at your destination: 26 By faith in Christ you are in direct
relationship with God. 27 Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up
for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith
wardrobe–Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise.” (Galatians
3:25-27, The Message)
Jesus is the clear fashion pacesetter. His qualities of life should
guide the selections each of us makes as we decide how to present ourselves in
any situation on any given day: “From now on everyone is defined by Christ,
everyone is included in Christ. 12 So, chosen by God for this new life of love,
dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility,
quiet strength, discipline. 13 Be even-tempered, content with second place,
quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master
forgave you. 14 And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your
basic, all-purpose garment.” (Colossians 3:11b-14, The Message) None of
us has a spiritual fashion entourage, with someone else to lay out our godly
clothing for each day, making sure that we are dressed and polished as we
should be. We must make choices about the qualities of Christ we will model
each day. But we are not left to dress ourselves totally on our own. God is
our ever-present spiritual fashion designer and consultant, and God has
impeccable taste and provides the ultimate wardrobe for us: ” I am overwhelmed
with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of
salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in
his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10 NLT) He clothes us
with his grace, so we are always outfitted in custom-sized love and
forgiveness.

No matter where you are, on the red-or-whatever-color carpet, at the
office, at school, in the gym, on vacation, or on an evening out, the question,
“Who are you wearing?” should have the same obvious answer for believers.
“Jesus!” Jesus is truly versatile, go-anywhere, always appropriate, the height
of spiritual fashion. Just remember, some of your actions may not be
appropriate when you are wearing Jesus.

J. Edward Culpepper, Ph.D.