Monthly Archives: May 2012

What the Faithful Are Wearing

Fashion police were out in force the day after Memorial Day. The usual pronouncements were made about when it is OK to wear white. (Soupheners, of course, know that – strictly speaking – white may be worn from Easter until Labor Day, but prevalent yankee TV fashionistas persist in taking note of a Memorial Day-Labor Day white season.) Most TV talk shows featured iconoclasts who called for wearing white anytime at all.

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

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. Fashion sense still seems to override our spiritual awareness. People today continue to demonstrate far more concern for when to wear white and what “must have” Fashions and accessories have been blessed by designers and starlets this year. 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 spiritual wardrobe choices daily.

Cable TV shows, such as What not to Wear, 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 behavioral 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 in 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 step 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” of spiritual garments. 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, MSG) 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, MSG)

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 –

the question, “Who are you wearing?” should have the same obvious answer for believers: “Jesus!” Jesus is always in-season, go-anywhere, always appropriate, the height of spiritual fashion. Just remember, some actions may not be appropriate when you are wearing Jesus.

– J. Edward Culpepper

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