When I was a little girl, there was no question about what was appropriate attire for church. I wore dresses, tights or frilly socks, and dress shoes. My brother wore dress shirts and pants. My mother wore skirts. My dad wore crisp, starched shirts with ties, dress pants, and sometimes even a suit.
Times have changed. On Facebook this week I’ve seen several church ads telling everyone to come as they are. To wear jeans or shorts. They seem to consider jeans a more “real” way to dress, more authentic, more genuine. Their ads even seem to indicate that when you wear jeans to church you are more focused on Jesus. I think it’s important to express more interest in people and their souls than in what they’re wearing. I’m all for that, and all for de-emphasizing the clothing that people have on.
But, is that what we’re doing when we create these church ads? Ads that seem to say that churches where people wear dressier clothes are too rule oriented or are out of touch?
At our church, people wear jeans and they wear suits and dresses. I have worn jeans myself, on Sunday morning, and have never felt that anyone had a problem with that or cared one way or the other. But, I do think that we get so adamant about emphasizing jeans and shorts as the most “authentic” way to do church that we end up implying that those who choose to dress up a little more are doing something bad. What is so wrong with wearing heels to church? What is so terrible about wearing a suit and tie if you feel like it? I wonder why we are so quick to associate dresses with some sort of phony, hypocritical, stuffy faith?
Some people feel like they should offer their very best to God on the Sabbath, even down to what they wear on their bodies. If their best is a suit and tie and they want to wear that, I fail to see how it makes them any less genuine or any less in touch or any less welcoming or kind or generous or obedient than any jean-wearing church member.
It seems that, in a reaction against legalism, we have gone too far the other direction, and once again, we are placing way too much emphasis on what people wear, as if shorts and flip flops make you a more devoted Christian or a better witness or a more authentic person.
This Easter, my kids will be decked out in frilly dresses and bow ties. My husband will wear a suit. And, I will probably wear jeans because I’m working in the nursery and will be hanging out on the floor with little people. And, none of those clothing choices matter one little bit to the kingdom of God. Wear what you want to church. But, I pray that whether you wear a suit or flip flops, you won’t fall into the trap of believing that what you pull out of your closet is an indicator of your spiritual condition. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God sees the heart.