Through it all I felt a growing sense of unease. How can people think that the clothes they wear are an indication of their heart and its relationship to Almighty God? We all know that "clothes don't make the man." That's been around forever. Eventually I was asked my opinion, and I said that I disagreed with them and that I saw no problem with it. I went on to say that God doesn't care what we wear as long as it's modest and not causing someone else to sin or laced with profanity. He looks at our hearts. Our respect/reverence of Him has nothing to do with what we're wearing in church.
Growing up in rural Kentucky, my home church had a dress code. For males, blue jeans or pants were to be worn at all times; females had to wear skirts or dresses. Shorts were never allowed. This was how I grew up, and how I thought for much of my life. I never bothered to ask why. It was one of those "that's just how it is" things. Along those lines, American history shows plenty of examples of men taking their hats off before entering buildings, opening doors for women, and being generally "respectful." Culture defined respect, and like any good Baptist, this turned into a tradition, albeit lacking any biblical support.
I was given some stern looks and questioned about my opinions. The problem with America, I was told, is that we've progressively compromised our stands and allowed liberal theology to overtake us. I can agree to some extent with that, but not in full. Too often people hold to the "God is an unchanging God" mentality, that He's "the same yesterday, today, and forever" and that means that we should be the same, too. The problem with that is that it limits how you worship God, who creates a new day every morning, who's crafted a world filled with beauty and impossible splendor. The world is changing, just as God knew it would, and holding on to pointless traditions are inefficient at best, and downright wrong at worse.
The bride that Jesus died for is built on the Word of God, not traditions. Traditions can teach, and there is wisdom found in them, but they are not God's Word. Whenever the two butt heads, I'm going to choose the bible every time. It bugs me when people say "I believe that..." or something similar. What we believe has no matter when compared with what God says. The bible speaks plenty on respect and honoring God.
- The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. -- Proverbs 1:7
- The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. -- Psalm 111:10
- Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory, honor, and power... -- Revelation 4:11
- Honor your father and mother. -- Exodus 20:12
The bible teaches in being reverent to God. The bible teaches that I should live out my life in fear of Him, and that that fear is healthy and humbling. The bible teaches us that as we fear Him then He blesses us. Jesus taught us that people should respect one another and love one another and that our respect and love toward one another is reflective of His love to us. The bible does not teach that wearing a hat in church is disrespectful or wrong. That means that we can serve and worship God in a three-piece suit as easily as we can in gym shorts and sandals.
It seems to me that the Generic American Church of Denominations has a mixed bag when it comes to things like this. We have our traditions and our practices, things that are obviously American and rooted in our grandparents and great-grandparents days, or all the way back to the Pilgrims even. We hold fast to these things, convincing ourselves that they are right and God-breathed. On the same hand, we cling to biblical cultures and practices when it's convenient, eager to apply verses out of context. This double standard is frustrating and foolish. It brings to mind James' words 1:8, "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." Man cannot be double-minded or else we're called a hypocrite. The same goes for the church.
I just wish people would wake up and realize this. I'm just as guilty as anyone else, blinded by my own opinions and biased to my own thinking. But I'm honestly trying to base my opinions on the bible, not on traditions or culture or some pastor or the latest book or anything else. God's Word is the only source of truth that we have. The rest is just empty words. Now I'm not saying that we should just throw out the way that we do things, but I am saying that we should think about the way that we do things. Are we scriptural in our practices? And even deeper, even if we don't say anything, are we silently judging somebody else because they're doing something out of the norm or worse, something we disagree with? I'm wrestling with being as biblical as I can in my life. I hope you are, too.
*Why? Why are buildings worthy of respect? God no longer dwells in a tabernacle or temple. He sent His Spirit to us, which dwells in our hearts. So again, why treat the building as something holy?