Would you go to church naked? No?
Maybe you're shocked that I asked such a question. It's not the type of topic Christians usually write about, is it?
Well, I have a good reason for asking the question. Many people DO go to church in the buff. Spiritually, that is. They sit next to you in the pew, vulnerable and unclothed. Surprised?
You shouldn't be. You've seen them: believers dressed in their "Sunday best" suits and stilettos, with a look that is designed to lead you to one conclusion: they really have it all together. The truth is, not all of them are as dressed up as they think they are!
If you're someone who appreciates fine clothes and likes to dress up a bit on a Sunday, please don't be offended. You'll find me rummaging through my closet on a Sunday morning, too, looking for something a little nicer to wear. I was raised that way and old habits die hard. My point is, it's not what's on the outside that matters, but what's on the inside.
Like you, God is horrified at the idea of His people showing up "unclothed" for church. From the time sin enters the world, we see God preparing protective clothing for believers. Just as you were shocked at my opening suggestion, so God is sometimes repulsed by the condition of believers. Look at His reaction to the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:
And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,
Instead of revealing our nakedness to the world, we should be revealing our royal dignity as sons and daughters of God in Christ.
What is Beauty?
I had the opportunity to take my husband to the doctor's office recently, and as I waited, an issue of People magazine caught my eye. Not my usual reading fare, People focuses on the famous and beautiful ones among us. The ones whose glamour seems to ooze from every pore. Who actually -*ahem!* - look good in no clothing at all!
This particular issue focused on beauty, and had a section in which female celebrities posed for headshots with no makeup. A refreshing change, to be sure, but what interested me most was the quotations the magazine included from these celebrities. The celebs were asked whom they found most beautiful. Their answers surprised me.
Many of them said that the people they most admired were those who "radiated an inner beauty," whose attraction was not external but internal. Even at 50 or 60 years of age, the "incorruptible beauty" of their spirit was shining through. Sounds a lot like 1 Peter 3, doesn't it?
Even the world can recognize fake beauty and pretense. Why are we so surprised that God recognizes it, too?
It's Time to Clean Out Your Closet
The Bible is full of analogies to clothing, like the address to the Laodiceans above. The apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4:22-24: "You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." (RSV)
Galatians 3:27 reads: "All who are baptized into Christ have clothed themselves with Christ." (ESV). But even after salvation, our closet is still full of outfits that belong to our "old self." Since we have exchanged our old self for a new one in Christ, our attire must change also. Growing as a Christian includes discarding tired old garments in favor of better-fitting new ones.
Jesus counsels believers not to show up naked after salvation. "Go shopping," He advises. "Buy white garments from ME so that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed." (Revelation 3:18, above.) We should be excited about this!
What Should I Wear?
What do godly garments look like? Are we supposed to show up in white robes like martyrs, casting sparkly crowns at God's feet each week? Not quite.
The most essential element of our new wardrobe is the Holy Spirit. Jesus counseled the disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they were "clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49). The presence of the Spirit anoints us and protects us in all our vulnerable places. The Holy Spirit is like a "base layer" that we should not be without.
On top of that, Colossians 3 says: "...clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience...Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Colossians 3:12-14, RSV). 1 Peter 5:5 reinforces this: "And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (RSV).
So we have a base layer; humility and kindness are our basic "everyday" pieces; and love, which "matches" everything, pulls our outfit together.
But what about foul-weather gear? Don't we have days when life is wet and messy, or adventures that require clothing more in the style of the "North Face?"
We do, and for those times, Paul suggests we grab the sturdier, all-terrain garments.. Ephesians 6 describes our battle gear, which includes a sword and a helmet as accessories, and Romans 13 agrees that we should "put on the armor of light" for those darker days.
Strength, dignity, and the fear of the Lord are the complementary pieces described in Proverbs that add beauty to our wardrobe. They are not wingtips and stilettos, to be sure, but godly garments are of a sturdier fare and will last us much longer.
When you become an adult, you outgrow childish things. When you become a Christian, you outgrow the need for external pretense. Take Jesus's counsel: go shopping in heaven's warehouse. Update your wardrobe. Above all, please don't go to church naked!
c.Deborah Perkins / HisInscriptions.com
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.