That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life...
Philippians 2:15-16a

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Lesson from the World

This past Wednesday a very interesting thing happened at choir practice.  Not the church choir.  My church is too small to have one of those :).  I sing in a community choir at the university in my city.  It's made up of university students, professors, and people from the community.  I would say 90-95% of the people in my choir are non-Christians. The 5-10% who are Christians are certainly not of the Independent Baptist type of Christianity.

So, we were going through the announcements on Wednesday, which was mainly stuff that had to do with our weekend concert.  It was a pretty important performance.  We were singing with the Elmer Iseler singers!  They are a professional choir from Toronto, and they are REALLY good!  Our choir director's assistant was giving us the details about "appropriate" choir attire, and I had the most serious deja vu!

I felt like I was back in Bible college, listening to my music teacher tell us how we had to dress for church performances!  My choir has some STRICT dress rules!  And that's EXACTLY what they are.  Rules.  And you know what's even more ironic?  No one in my choir of 95% unsaved people had a problem with a dress code for a performance.  And I mean dress code!  Honestly, everyone I went to school with should have heard this guy talk.  He almost quoted my Bible college music teacher verbatim when it came to performance dress.

Ladies: Black bottom (skirts or pants); not tight; skirts must be to the knee or longer; black shirt; not clingy or tight; not low cut; no big jewellery; black shoes; black nylons if wearing a skirt.

Men: black pants; black shirt; black socks; black shoes... shined; black belt; shirts must be ironed.

With a few exceptions (girls weren't allowed to wear pants when I was in Bible college), this dress code is just as strict or even stricter than what I had to follow in my Bible college singing groups.  He even described, in a little more descriptive detail than was probably necessary, what the ladies were NOT supposed to be showing during our performance. This is the world after all.  But, he wanted to make absolutely sure that we understood that our performance was not about dressing provocatively, and what exactly that meant!  Believe me, it was quite clear.

What was the reason he gave us for such a strict dress code?  Our concert is about the music not about bringing attention to ourselves.  There it is again!  That was the exact reason we were given for how we dressed when we sang in Bible college.  I almost wish I had a tape recorder, so I could have taped exactly what he said.

It amazes me that these people in my choir had no problem with such a strict and restrictive dress code for a performance, and yet many Christians get so offended when a pastor asks them to dress a certain way for church.  Not only that, if the pastor dare even hints that they should be dressing a certain way as Christians all the time, they get uber-offended!  Some Christians even leave churches over dress standards.  What's up with that?  If non-Christians can dress a certain way without complaint, why can't Christians do the same?  What's the big deal that Christians get so angry about being asked to dress modestly?

Almost every secular workplace has some type of dress code.  Whether it be a uniform, or a guideline, or safety rules, it's still a dress code.  My question is why the church has to be the exception?  Why can't a church have a dress standard?  Why can't God have a dress standard?  Is being a Christian less important than being a police officer or a mechanic?  They both wear work appropriate attire?  What about dressing for a wedding?  Weddings and funerals have dress codes too.  It's understood what is appropriate attire for those events.  Why should church be different?  What forbids a pastor from teaching his people what God expects as appropriate attire for church and even for daily Christian living? Why is the entire world allowed to make dress codes, but God isn't?

It never ceases to amaze me how Christians can dress for the world at the drop of a hat, no questions asked, but when it comes to dressing for the Lord they have all kinds of excuses and reasons why that's a bunch of stupid, legalistic, pharisaical, rules that are encroaching on their liberty in Christ!  I've seen it first hand.  We used to have several families in our church that had their children involved in army cadets.  The cadets have very strict rules about their uniforms, and if you don't follow them, you get in big trouble!  Yet, when it came to dressing for the Lord, these same families would get offended or talk about how such requirements were unnecessary and silly.  Isn't God more important than cadets?  What's even funnier is the cadet uniform is kind of ugly in my opinion.  At least when I'm dressing for God, I get to wear nice, beautiful, well fitting, pretty clothes that make me look clean, neat, tidy, and pleasant!

The truth is, that God is NOT the exception to dress codes.  Like everyone else in the entire world, God does have a standard when it comes to dress.  It's just that we in our sinful, human natures don't want to submit to what God has for us.  Why?  Our hearts are hard.  God's standard for dress is the same as His standard for everything else... holiness.  The sad thing is, most Christians today are never taught what holiness really is.  Very few search the Scriptures for themselves to find out what holiness is.  They think holiness is being like the world except adding a bit of Jesus here and there.  Holiness is nothing like that.  The world makes rules about dress, and their rule is anything goes.  God is not like that.  God saves us, makes us new Creatures, and then allows us the amazing privilege of living for Him.  Dressing for the Lord shouldn't be a rule, but it should be the natural response of every sold out Christian.  When ladies love God more than anything else in all the world, they won't have a problem dressing modestly, feminine, and like ladies who belong to Jesus.  When men love God more than anything else in the whole world they won't have a problem dressing modestly, masculine, and like men who belong to Jesus.


  1. It used to be that people knew how to dress for church. I heard a story of a church where one of the choir members was wearing the most immodest skirt you could wear until something embarassing happened which shocked the whole congregation. Needless to say they decided to have the choir wear choir robes - I remember being in a Baptist church as a child in the 1970's where that was the case. I think people get angry now because they see or hear that other churches don't have a dress code. Of course a lot of these churches don't have a choir - they have a band instead and naturally the band is going to be casual. In general people today don't dress for church like they used. It used to be when a man would enter a church sanctuary they would remove their hat - it didn't matter if they were members of that church or not. Now that personally doesn't bother me but I grew up in churches where that was the norm - now even in my church which is independent baptist guys who may be "unchurched" keeps their hats on and naturally are also casually dressed. Our church doesn't tell them to remove their hats and we definitely don't tell them they should change how they dress but needless to say there is ignorance of both the Scriptures and tradition - not that tradition is as important.

    By the way, Elizabeth Elliot had been saying the same things you write on here about clothing - she probably still believes those things but she's retired now. I know people wonder why someone who worked among the Auca Indians after her husband was killed would care about dress - and by the way she always wears a dress - she didn't change her fashion even though the majority of her peers and other Christians did. And I'm pretty sure she isn't Independent Baptist (or any Baptist) or United Penteoostal/Apostolic - I think she is still Episcopalian in fact.

  2. Our society has definitely changed when it comes to dress, and it's not getting better! I think a lot of the ignorance about respectfulness and dress in church is because of Christians. We've lowered the standards, and thus, people just don't know anymore! I really believe that having a higher standard as Christians is SO important. We're to be living for Christ, not the world, and we need to reflect a good testimony for Him!

    Thanks for your comment :)