Now, when I do this from time to time, I’ve found that people get a little prickly. When I’m slamming the feminists, the shouts go up: hurrah! When I’m mocking the sodomites and transgenders, the shouts go up: hurrah! When I’m calling for the end of abortion and defying the statist demigogues, the shouts go up: hurrah! And then when I say that’s why you should stop putting holes in your face and dying your hair teal, you should stop dressing like our enemies, stop wearing the uniform of the other team, the cry goes up: huh?? Hey, that hurt my feelings. I am deeply, deeply wounded deep down in my heart of hearts. My second cousin’s cat had a former owner who once delivered milk to some old godly saint of a woman with that exact Hebrew tramp stamp that you’re mocking and so I’m offended for my cat who is no doubt offended by your remarks on behalf of the whole human race. Everyone is offended. Everyone.
Or, often as not, the response is a little less fuming, and a little more faux-philosophical. You just don’t make sense, Mr. Toby. I see the arguments you’re making but I’m just confused by them. I read your post very carefully three times, looked up several words in my dictionary, and somewhere in there you took several logical leaps and bounds and I’m just flummoxed and confused by what it all means. And don’t you think you should be more careful?
But I’m one of those people who is not very put off by these responses. I do receive all honest input, and I do happily take it on board. But on the whole, taking one thing with another, I take both sorts of responses as a fair indication that I need to keep talking about it, probably even more than I really want to.
So, you want to end abortion in America. You want to see every knee bow to King Jesus. You want to see sexual confusion and perversion and abuse repented of. You want to see godly men leading godly women in married holiness raising piles of joyful children to love and fear the Lord all their days. You want to see faithfulness to a thousand generations. You want to see the laws of our land reflect the character of our God. You want worldliness and mammon crushed beneath our feet. In short, you want to see reformation and revival in our land.
Ok, great. But that means you need to stop shopping at Abercrombie and Bitch. Yes, I’m talking to you. You need to stop binge watching crap on Netflix. You need to stop studying Glamour for your fashion tips. You need to stop caring what Hot Topic, Gucci, the Gap, Old Navy, Macy’s, Tommy Hilfiger, Taylor Swift, Jay-Z, Imagine Dragons, or whatever your I’m-way-too-cool-for-you-indie-band is called — you need to stop caring what they tell you are the cool looks, the sexy looks, the manly looks, the ruggedly disheveled looks, the retro gay looks, the woker-than-thou-virtue-signalling looks, the I-get-laid-by-different-jerks-every-night-I-don’t-know-why looks. In short, you need to stop looking to the enemies of God for your beauty and style standards. Why in the world would you go to Baal for your haircut? Why would you go to Molech for your piercing, your tattoo, your wardrobe? And even if you wouldn’t go there, why would you look at their catalogues, emulate their models, or even give their version of glory the slightest time of day?
Christians have the bad habit of adopting the world’s uniform about 10 minutes after the first explosion of rebellion but while it’s still hot in their hand. Christians don’t usually want to openly rebel. They just want the smell of rebellion in their hair, the marks of rebellion on their skin. They didn’t really want to rebel (most of the time), they just want the look of rebellion, the tint of rebellion, the swagger of rebellion. It’s something along the lines of: I’m pretty awesome and I don’t give a damn. Or at least, something like Can’t you tell I’m trying really hard to be awesome, and I’m pretty sure, any moment now, I will begin not giving a damn. Much.
Ok, but newsflash for you: wanting to look rebellious, wanting to look like a rebel, a slut, or a lustful pirate is rebellion. It is sin. Do not desire their way of life. Do not desire their lostness. Do not desire to look perverse. Do not get your fashion sense from people who murder their babies, are unfaithful to their spouses, are sexually perverse, and think this world is a warm accident running down a cosmic toddler’s pant leg.
Now let me lay out some qualifiers for all you perfectionist piranhas out there. Look, nothing in this world is unclean in itself. There’s nothing evil or wicked in the material nature of piercings, bikinis, purple hair, or tramp stamps. And when the gospel is preached, people from every walk of life will come to Christ, and they will come to Christ wearing whatever it was that they were wearing. And in the nature of the case, pagans will often look like pagans. Rebels will look like rebels. It’s what they do. So I’m not talking about the inherent immorality of arranging matter in a particular order. And I’m also not talking about chasing people down who showed up at church last week who still look like Hell. Dude, that’s where they came from. Let’s get them baptized and reading their Bibles and holding a job down first.
But we are Christians, and we have been sent out into the world to build a new world, to build the Kingdom of God, to build communities that reflect Heaven. This is what it means for our citizenship to be in Heaven. This doesn’t mean we are just tourists in this world. No, it means we are colonists in this world. Philippi was an Imperial Colony of Rome. The citizens of Philippi were all Roman citizens, sent to Philippi to build a Roman city, with Roman customs, and to inculcate Roman culture in Asia Minor. When Paul urged the Philippians to think of their citizenship as being in Heaven, he was saying that they ought to recognize that their mission in this world was no longer to bring the culture of Rome to Asia Minor; now in Christ, their mission was to bring the culture of Heaven to Asia Minor. The Great Commission is the claim of Jesus that He has all authority in Heaven and on Earth and that the Church is to therefore go into all the world proclaiming this authority, baptizing those who submit to it, and teaching all men everywhere to obey all that Jesus has commanded. In short, our job is to bring the culture of heaven to earth, which is why we pray, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Which brings me back to Abercrombie and Bitch. And I do not use that play on words lightly. I mean it. The American Church will continue to be the world’s bitch as long as the Church continues to allow the world to tell her what is cool, what is sexy, what is attractive, what is beautiful, what is glorious. Now I know that every Christian has to wake up in the morning and put clothes on and comb their hair. And nobody can start from nothing. No one gets a blank slate. You have what your mother gave you. You have what your dad gave you.You have whatever is in the closet, whatever ink is already in your skin. And we really are in a place where there’s hardly any way to put all the toothpaste back in the tube. I mean, some of you were literally imitating your pastor and got tattoos with him. Some of you were imitating your pastor’s wife and went and got that body piercing with her. And maybe you were discussing last Sunday’s sermon in all earnestness all the way there. I get that, and this is not me trying to diss every last element in the story. God is good, and He always meets us where we are. His grace fills up everything that is lacking in our pitiful attempts at obedience. And I would rather a tatted, pierced, pink haired, punk rocker who is actually trying to obey Jesus in humility every single day of the week than a kid with his shirt tucked in harboring a porn habit while carrying on like he’s the paragon of holiness. Remember, many tax collectors and prostitutes will be in heaven ahead of all the boy scouts and choir boys. And amen to that.
But we can’t stop there. Jesus doesn’t stop there. Jesus cares about culture. He cares about what we wear, what we eat, and how we present ourselves. It’s not the most important thing, but it is still important. He doesn’t give us a dress code or a long list of dos and don’ts, but we do have enough to go on in His word. And the big E on the eye chart is: Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom. 12:1). Also: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world (1 Jn. 2:15-16). And we have honor your father and your mother, and love your neighbor as yourself, and whatever you do, whether you eat or drink or shop or comb or wear or pierce, do it all to the glory of God.
But we need to be students of the glory of God. If you’ve been born and raised in the glory of man, the glory of lust, the glory of pride, then you cannot get saved and magically assume you know what the glory of God is. The glory of God is not a little sticker you put on everything you were already planning to do anyway. The glory of God takes on a shape in this world. It takes everything in this world, nails it to the cross, and then waits to see what comes out of the grave. Sometimes nothing comes out of the grave. It needed to die and stay dead. Sometimes what comes out of the grave has a great deal of resemblance to what we nailed to the cross but now it’s handed back to us reoriented rightly to Christ. And sometimes what comes out of the grave is really different than anything we expected. But a great deal of modern culture is the attempt to glorify selfishness, lust, pride, to glorify me and my appetites. It says: look at me, look at my arms, look at my face, look at my breasts, hey! look at me! But trying to find your life like that is the surest way to lose it. Jesus says that the only way to find your life is to lose it for His sake. Take up your cross and follow Him. Lay all of that old, false glory down, nail it to the cross, and wait patiently for the Lord of glory to give you His real glory.
It turns out that this life in Christ really is full of joy and glory. There is a feast at the center, and we are going to the best party in the history of the world, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. There will be the loudest singing, the best steak, the finest wine, and some pretty raucous music and dancing. And there really is a holy swagger that goes with all of this glory — it’s a boasting in the cross, but it’s a boasting all the same. So this isn’t me just getting old and cranky and yelling at the kids to get off the lawn. This is me trying to get the kids out of the highway where they keep getting clipped by worldly semi-trailers. Huh, everyone says, we just don’t get it. He went to church and Bible studies and even held up a big sign at our Planned Parenthood protest and now his kids are little demons and his marriage is on the rocks. Right, but you have to understand the power of glory. Where was the glory? Glory is what makes you shine. Glory is what makes you laugh out loud. Glory is what makes a man stand up straight and tall. Glory is what makes a woman altogether lovely. God wired us for glory. We are naturally hungry for glory. And glory drives us. Glory is taking us somewhere. And this is why the presentation matters. The presentation is aimed at glory. So whose glory is that and where is it taking you?
This is why we will happily serve a thousand cakes to homosexuals, but we will not make a cake for their wedding. We will not glorify their sin. We will not present their sin as good or glorious. This is why the Christian Church absolutely must minister to those who have been caught up in homosexual sin and lust, but this is why we must not celebrate those vile affections or unclean lusts as some kind of special identity. This is to glorify that sin as some kind of identity marker. But that is not who we are in Christ. He took our sin, and we have received His righteousness and perfection. This is our glory. So why would a Christian, washed in the redeemer’s blood, take fashion tips from homosexuals? Why would Christians dye their hair the colors of the Homo-PRIDE rainbow? Why would Christians put pieces of metal in their faces as if they hated themselves like sinners lost in sin, as those who glory in their shame?
Well, hold it now, Pastor: I read Genesis one time and Rebecca was a godly woman and Abraham’s servant gave her a nose ring. Right. And if you live in a conservative Christian Indian culture, be my guest. But my point is that context matters. We are living in times where the whole point is to confuse and mess with the categories. Who’s to say what a man is? What exactly is a woman? What is a family? What is a marriage? What is a baby? What is a mom or a dad? A man can have long hair. A woman can have short hair. A man can wear tight pants. A woman can wear a suit and tie. There’s not really a huge difference between men and women’s underwear. It’s just a clump of tissue. Hey, whatever floats your boat, pal. Right, and so that’s why Christians who care about the current demolition job being done on the remnants of Western Culture around us, should not help the arsonists and terrorists with their work by proliferating their glory, by dressing up in the rags of their confusion. You can quote Bible verses all day long, but if you are still mesmerized by their glory, if you still love their bling, you are still their bitch.
So it really comes down to what you are attracted to, what is glorious in your eyes. If Christ is your glory, your joy, then His ways, His customs, His style should over time inform how you glorify your life. And if Christ is your glory, everyone who hates Christ should get the squinty-eyed suspicious look when they are trying to sell you something to make you look good. Why should you trust the baby-killers? Why would you get glory tips from people who support genital mutilation in the name of finding your true sexual identity? They don’t know what glory is.
So here’s my point: the western Christian Church will not actually begin to take back leadership of culture until we entirely reject the world’s offer to be our stylists and wardrobe managers. If you don’t want them running the show, do not let them back stage.