God meets us where we are, not where we should have been. This means that when someone walks into church off the street smelling and looking like the world, they are most welcome. Jesus welcomed us in our sins, and therefore, sinners of every stripe are most welcome. Come and welcome to Jesus Christ. But part of the glory of this grace is that it doesn’t leave us there. God’s grace changes us; it restores us and glorifies us to the kind of human beings we were created to be.
This is part of why historically, the church has sought to dress for the occasion. We dress up for church because we are meeting with our King, and we dress up because we believe that this is part of what the King is doing in us and for us. He is taking our old sinful rags and giving us His royal robes of righteousness. He has done this definitively in Jesus Christ, but He is doing this progressively as we are changed from glory to glory, as we grow into Jesus Christ. We have no interest in turning this into any kind of fashion show: whether the hypocrisy of pharisees in their long robes or the hypocrisy of showboating, with fancy suits or gaudy jewelry. What we are aiming for is simplicity and thoughtfulness.
Giving thought to simple, modest dressing up for church can be one easy way to show honor for God and the occasion of worship and show kindness to one another. The focal point of worship is Jesus, not you, and not your comfort. Of course in our world tastes, preferences, and styles vary, and we really don’t want to be cranky or legalistic at all. But flipflops and sweatpants generally communicate that something is casual and not very important, while tuxedoes and low cut blouses or short skirts communicate “hey everybody, look at me.” It’s striking that in Timothy, Paul says that men need to make sure that they are worshiping free of all wrath and doubting and women need to make sure they are worshiping modestly, without showing off their bodies or jewelry or hair. As Hebrews says, let us worship acceptably with reverence and fear; for our God is a consuming fire.
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