Being a girl in an independent Baptist church can mean that you are often expected to dress a certain way. A lot of people have problems with this, but it's honestly never bothered me. I have no problem with rules or standards. Especially when they are established on a biblical basis, and that is the key. Jesus liked rules too, because He said if we love Him we'll keep His commandments (John 14:15). Just in case you're a little fuzzy on what a commandment is, it's a 3 syllable word meaning RULES. John 14:15 isn't the only verse that talks about loving God and keeping His commandments. I was curious, so I did an online Bible search of the words "love" and "command" (commandment). These two words appear together in 32 verses! My favourite by far out of those verses is I John 5:3. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For some reason Christians have this idea that a rule is a bad thing. Rules are oppressive and are meant to hurt us or keep us from things that are "fun." Isn't it a blessing to know that God's commandments are not severe, damaging, or traumatic? He's not trying to punish us. He's not trying to be mean. His commands are NOT grievous! By the way, the Bible does have a lot to say about how we dress. Exodus 28:42, Leviticus 8:7, Matthew 6:30-31, I Timothy 2:9, I Peter 3:3-5.
I have to say though, sometimes I get a little annoyed of all the focus being on the way the women dress. I get why a lot of the focus is on women. Dress standards over the years for women have changed much more drastically than they have for men, but I've seen some pretty horribly dressed Christian men around too! I think if women are going to have rules about how to dress, so should the men. It's only fair. I have no idea why it is acceptable in our society for men to walk around with no shirts on in warm weather, or with their shirts either half unbuttoned or all unbuttoned... blah, gag, gross!!! Honestly, girls don't find that attractive. It's bad enough seeing men walking around in public half un-dressed (ugh!), so please don't force us ladies to have to look at that at church! Of course there's the whole shorts debate. I know some churches that are against shorts on men. I think that's a bit of a double standard, especially if the ladies only have to have their skirts just below the knee. But, if men are going to wear shorts the standard should be consistent; below the knee.
While the current trend of society may be for women to dress sensually, the current trend for men seems to be to dress in extremes. There's the extreme of looking like a punk. There's the extreme of being sloppy. I think this is the one that I see the most in churches. What's the point of wearing a dress shirt if you're not going to iron it? There's the extreme of being "fashionable." There's the extreme of looking flashy. I saw a picture of a big-name pastor in the states, and he had it all! The hair, the designer jeans, the collared shirt in a flashy bright print material, the cuff links. He looked like he could be on the front of a men's fashion magazine. It's obvious that the Christian man faces a different battle when it comes to clothes than a woman does, but it is a battle nonetheless. Remember all the biblical principles I mentioned in my last post apply equally to men and women. We should ALL be dressing in a way that honours and pleases the Lord! When our dress draws attention to ourselves for whatever reason, we are taking away the attention from where it should be. On the Lord.
It's sad when people get offended by a church that teaches dress standards for both men and women. I believe the problems arise because we often get focused on the standard instead of the principle. I've seen it happen so many times. Immature Christians get offended by the standard because all they see is what they think is some controlling pastor or church trying to tell them how to live their lives! They've missed the point. If the standard is based on the Bible, then the fact that they are offended has nothing to do with the pastor or church. It's a heart problem of that believer! If they really loved God, they wouldn't be offended. Psalm 119:165 Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. That fact is that loving God means loving His law, which is His Word that He wrote, the Bible. When we get that aspect of our hearts right, this verse says NOTHING will offend us. The number one response of a Christian when he/she gets offended should be to look inward at their own relationship with God, and NOT blame everyone else for the offence.
One the other hand, sometimes Christians who focus on the standard use it to measure the spirituality of fellow believers. This leads to all sorts of judgmental and proud attitudes. They go around thinking they are better than everyone because they "keep" the standard. Again, a heart issue. Pride is probably the most accepted sin amongst Christians. It is probably also the least recognized sin as well. We're quick to see the motes in others eyes, but not so quick to see the beams in our own! That's pride. We're so proud of our standards because obviously that must mean we are more like Christ. Here's how God views pride.
Psalm 119:21 Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed...
Proverbs 16:15 Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD...
I'm not saying that everyone with a high standard is proud. Not at all! I know many Christians with extremely high standards, and they are also some of the humblest people I know. They are genuine, sweet, loving, and Spirit filled Christians. They love God and just want to please Him. They are not motivated by pride. They are not seeking to please men. The fact is, that those who's standards come from a heart full of pride will eventually stumble. Proverbs 16:18: Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. I've seen this happen too. The higher standard is often the harder road, and it takes a heart totally surrendered to the Lord to live this way. If the heart is not genuinely in the standard the fall is inevitable!
I greatly appreciate the fact that I have a pastor who gives us biblical reasons for standards. It's really so simple, but it's something that every Christian must settle in his or her own heart. We really need to read the Word, pray, and seek good teaching for how we are to live our lives before the Lord. I pray that more Christians would be willing to surrender the not only the area of their dress to the Lord, but also their hearts... totally, completely, and fully.