What's the big deal about "dressing up" for church? It is hardly a burning issue. However, it is what dressing up for church represents that is the burning issue.
First, it reflects the false division between the secular and the sacred. To think that God cares one whit if you wear dressy threads on Sunday to "meet Him" is a violation of the New Covenant. We have access to God's presence at all times and in all circumstances. Does He really expect His people to dress up for a beauty pageant on Sunday morning?
Second, wearing attractive, flashy clothes on Sunday morning screams out an embarrassing message: that church is the place where
Schmidt, "A Church Going People Is a Dress-Loving People," 36.
Bushman, Refinement of America, 319. "The early Methodists knew fashionable dress was the enemy, and now the enemy was winning." Schmidt writes, "People were concerned on the Sabbath ... to dress themselves in their best clothes; Sunday best was already proverbial. Even pietists and evangelicals who insisted on plain dress nonetheless made sure that their bodies were gravely and decently clothed" (Schmidt, "A Church Going People Is a Dress-Loving People," 45).
Christians hide their real selves and "dress them up" to look nice and prettyi8 Think about it. Wearing your Sunday best for church is little more than image management. It gives the house of God all the elements of a stage show: costumes, makeup, props, lighting, ushers, special music, master of ceremonies, performance, and the featured program.'
Dressing up for church violates the reality that the church is made up of real people with messy problems—real people who may have gotten into a major-league bickering match with their spouses just before they drove into the parking lot and put on colossal smiles to cover it up!
Wearing our "Sunday best" conceals a basic underlying problem. It fosters the illusion that we are somehow "good" because we are dressing up for God. It is a study in pretense that is dehumanizing and constitutes a false witness to the world.
Let's face it. As fallen humans, we are seldom willing to appear to be what we really are. We almost always rely on our performance or dress to give people a certain impression of what we want them to believe we are. All of this differs markedly from the simplicity that marked the early church.
Third, dressing up for church smacks against the primitive simplicity that was the sustaining hallmark of the early church. The first-century Christians did not "dress up" to attend church meetings. They met in the simplicity of living rooms. They did not dress to exhibit their social class. In fact, the early Christians made concrete efforts to show their absolute disdain for social class distinctions.'
In the church, all social and racial distinctions are erased. The early Christians knew well that they were a new species on this
God looks at the heart; He is not impressed with the garb we wear (1 Samuel 16:7; Luke 11:39;1 Peter 3:3-5). Our worship is in the spirit, not in physical outward forms (John 4:20-24),
Christian Smith, "Our Dressed Up Selves," Voices in the Wilderness (September/October, 1987), 2. °L' In his book Ante Pacem: Archaeological Evidence of Church Life Before Constantine, Graydon Snyder states that there are about thirty extant letters written by Christians before Constantine. According to these letters, the Christians typically dropped their general family name, which indicated their social status. They also called one another "brother" and "sister." Graydon Snyder, e-mail messages to Frank Viola, October 12 and 14, 2001, and July 10, 2007.
planet.' For this reason, James levels a rebuke to those believers who were treating the rich saints better than the poor saints. He boldly reproves the rich for dressing differently from the poor."
And yet, many Christians are under the false delusion that it is "irreverent" to dress in informal clothing when attending a Sunday morning church service. This is not dissimilar to how the Scribes and the Pharisees accused the Lord and His disciples of being irreverent for not following the tradition of the elders (Mark 7:1-13).
In short, to say that the Lord expects His people to dress in fine clothing when the church gathers is to add to the Scriptures and speak where God has not spoken." Such a practice is human tradition at its best.
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