Thursday, April 6, 2017

When Our Clothes Reveal Our True Religion and It's Not What We Thought


I had an interesting conversation at the office yesterday, and the words are still haunting me today.

Someone who'd been on the recent Jordan/Israel trip stopped by with a friend. She mentioned that, in the Middle East, you can usually tell a person's religion by the way they're dressed, unlike here in the US.

The photo above is one example. Based on his clothing, the elderly man is clearly an orthodox Jew. Many Muslim women wear hajibs or burqas. Some Muslim men wear a head covering, as well. Christians tend toward Western attire.

Our Mission Director, Steadman Harrison, shared an experience about the clothing /religion issue that cut us to the core. It went something like this...

An African man had recently arrived in the United States. "You can't tell our religion by how we dress," Steadman told him.

The man paused and looked around. "Oh, no. You dress like your religion, as well. You're just all materialists."

This morning, I looked in my closet and wondered what my clothing said about me. There was a time when I had a large income. Those days are long gone, of course, but, when I had a good bit of expendable money, I spent more than I should've on clothing. Name brand clothing. Latest styles. 

Those clothes have lasted for years and I'm grateful for them, but I have to admit that my clothing choices did reflect my leaning toward materialism. 

I grew up in a time when we wore our best clothes to go to church, our "dress-up" clothing. Those with less comfortable economic situations weren't always at ease coming in their "every day"clothes. 

I remember, as a young girl, seeing a family in worn jeans and faded shirts visit our church. They looked odd on the row with women in dresses and hats and, as bad as it seems, I wondered why they hadn't dressed "right."

The truth is that playing dress up sometimes kept people away from our congregation. 

Early this week, the topic of church clothes came up when a group of us were discussing helping some underprivileged youths go to church. 

"They might not be comfortable at our church," a woman said. "We sure like to dress up." 

Her pastor agreed. "They'd be welcome with us, but you're right about the clothing." 

"They can come to my church," I told the group. "Most people wear blue jeans, even on Sunday morning." 

As I said those words, I thought to myself that "most people" didn't include me. 

Old habits die hard, and I rarely wear jeans on Sunday morning. I thought about those boys who'd expressed a desire to know Jesus better and saw those Sunday-jeans in a new way. 

If dress-up clothes keep people from Jesus, I'm happy to wear jeans.

Please don't misunderstand me. We should always give God our best, but what He wants most is not what we put on the outside of our bodies. What God desires is an humble, contrite heart. 

Today, I'll choose my clothing based on comfort rather than the impression it will make. Sunday, I hope I do the same. 

As we look at our wardrobes, let's ask ourselves a hard question. "What do my clothing choices say about me? About what matters most to me?" 

If we're going to "dress up" for church, let's start in our prayer closet, not our clothes closet. When we do, our "true religion" will be evident, no matter what we wear.

"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'" 1 Samuel 16:7 nasb
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