I almost wore jeans to church today. It was slightly “chilly” morning (only a Florida girl can say that with a straight face when it’s 73 degrees outside!). As I went to grab my jeans I stopped short, flashing back to the moment I got dressed last Sunday. One week ago at this time I was in Haiti, getting ready to attend church in a room without air conditioning, in which the seats would literally be crammed full. The biggest difference between the Haitian service and the American one I attended this morning was not the temperature, however. Sitting in the sanctuary last Sunday, sweat literally dripping down my legs, I was blown away by not just the enthusiasm of the attendees, but…their clothes. Each Haitian (man, woman, teenager, and child) was quite literally dressed to the nines. I’m talking shirt and tie, dress with pantyhose, jackets on toddlers. Many Haitians only own one set of nice clothes, they WALK to church, and they wash their clothes BY HAND. They did not seem phased at all by the heat, however. They were much more interested in the reason for their attendance…and their hearts seemed ready to honor the God of the universe.
In America, we dress for the interview of the job we hope to get or to impress other people. When we deem a situation or person important or worthy, we dress up. Often, however, we dress down for church. Now please hear me, I’m not against a casual dress code for church. I don’t think God is legalistic and I feel confident that He cares much more about our hearts than He does our wardrobes when we walk thru the doors to the sanctuary – whether it’s air conditioned or not.
What convicts me is this…if clothes are indicative of intent and importance, then my absent-minded thought about wearing jeans to church should serve as a lightning bolt in my mind, waking me up to the reality of the One I’m going to meet, honor, and corporately worship. The issue, I believe, is less about what we wear and more about our “comfort” in the presence of Christ. Yes, He is our Emmanuel, God with us. But He is also the King of Kings. And it seems to me that a pause to reflect upon His majesty is an appropriate way to prepare my heart for the gathering that takes place on the Sabbath.
Oh, that I would have a heart that longs to offer Christ my best, my first, whether it be the clothes that I hand wash or the tithe that I offer with a willing (and even cheerful) heart after working long hours to earn the money. Dressing for church isn’t about impressing God. It’s about recognizing the reason behind the action…and pausing to remember our own poverty of spirit, that we might be emptied of ourselves and then filled with the very nature of God.
I am, once again, humbled by the way in which God uses small, seemingly inconsequential things to gently call us back to the truth of His love. My Belovedness has nothing to do with my dress…and everything to do with the cross. May we kneel at the foot of that cross – Haitians and Americans together – as we receive the unmerited favor of His grace.