Disclaimer: I use the gender-specific He for God out of habit, not because I believe God is gendered. The below comes from a place of privilege as a part of a Western culture. I hope you won’t hold it against me.
Newsflash: God doesn’t care what you look like; God loves you for you, not for your appearance. You can’t buy His love. You won’t persuade Him to love you more by dressing up. No amount of formal wear or nylons or ties or pocket squares or shiny shoes will change how He feels about you. You can’t lose His love by wearing rags or corsets or blue jeans or shorts or tennis shoes.
Yesterday at lunch, conversation turned to clothing. One of my dining companions mentioned that she doesn’t think she owns any dresses except for perhaps one “Sunday dress,” you know, a “church dress.” Frankly, this “church dress” culture pisses me off. There’s a lot of things about “church” that make me angry, really, and this has long been on the list. Maybe this is a nonstarter to you; maybe you’ve never thought about it.
I mentioned to my friend then that I believe you can wear anything you want when you walk in any church, that there shouldn’t be any dress code for church attendance, and that I think it’s absurd that such an implicit dress code pervades “churches.” It’s not a scriptural idea. It’s not a love idea.
My other dining companion mentioned that for her, it’s a sign of respect for God. And I replied to that, yes, because that’s the culture you were raised in. It’s got nothing to do with the great commandment. The backward idea that our outside appearance is an expression of our inner intent or attitude toward God is ludicrous. That’s a Pharisee talking. Or a church member. It’s not Jesus.
The entire premise that the church, as a body of believers, not as a building with members, is founded upon is an unconditional love that came to seek and save the lost, the sick, those who are still sinners. If “church” is to be church, then anyone must be welcomed, loved, embraced, and cherished with complete disregard for what they wear, what they smell like, what their hair looks like, what size they are, what shoes or hat or bow they wear, what jewelry that they accessorize with.
Shouldn’t we wear what we are our true selves in, not disguise ourselves to “look better for Jesus” as some well-intentioned but meaningless gesture to the One who sees our hearts? Shouldn’t we wear what will make other people feel loved, accepted, welcomed, not what will make them feel like outsiders, unworthy, unclean? Shouldn’t we be more concerned with the state of our hearts than the state of our fashion appeal?
This is perhaps just emblematic of a larger problem of “church” having become a building for the “religious,” those who already “know” Jesus, who go to play a part, sing some songs, eat a bite of bread, drink a bit of grape juice, hear a pastor preach, as though Sunday were at all what was asked of us.
I’m not suggesting we can’t look nice at church, but that we shouldn’t make an effort to look better on Sunday than we do the rest of the week. I don’t think we should put on a costume that differs from what we’d wear the rest of the week, because we’re in the presence of God all the time. So, if you think that God cares at all about what you wear, really, you ought to dress that way all the time. So, let me just repeat this: God doesn’t care what you wear. He cares about your heart. You are enough.
Song of Songs 2:4 (NIV), “Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love.”
Isaiah 61:10 (NIV), “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
Galatians 3:27 (NIV), “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
Matthew 6:25-33 (NIV)
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”