I have been going to church for literally longer than I can remember. I have sat in the pews of a Pentecostal sanctuary feeling under-dressed when wearing a tie and I have went to church where the vast majority of the attendees are wearing basketball shorts or sweatpants. I’ve listened to sermons condemning teenage boys wearing skinny jeans and having spikey haircuts and I’ve been a member of a church that calls jeans their “church clothes.” The conversation of “church appropriate” has always been a topic of discussion surrounding my life and I want to talk about it.
Here at Murray State, I go to a place called the Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM for short) on Thursday nights. The BCM has connected me with a Community Group – a small group bible study with a focus on building community with one another – where we are discussing a book called “Messy Spiritually” by Mike Yaconelli. One of the topics of discussion during one of our meetings was about whether or not churches are accepting of people who don’t come in looking “spiritual.” This was something I had honestly thought about frequently, so I was eager to give my input.
Church buildings and “The Church” – as in the collective of people with a relationship with God – are sometimes more concerned with how people look than what their walk with Christ is like. Even in the churches where this is not the case, there is still a stigma that makes certain people feel uncomfortable or judged. I am personally pretty cautious when entering a place filled with believers because of my appearance. I have long hair that I wear in various styles, I have seven tattoos (5 of which are pretty visible on a typical day), my nose is pierced, and my jeans are probably tighter than what people would prefer me to wear.
In 1 Samuel 16, the Lord tells Samuel that He looks at a person’s heart rather than their outward appearance. John the Baptist wore clothes made from camel’s hair and a leather belt. He sure wasn’t worried about receiving judgement from those who saw how he was dressed; however, he was one of the most influential people in the Bible. What does this tell us? Maybe how we dress or how we choose to decorate our bodies doesn’t have as much to do with spirituality as some may think. I have seen people who wear three-piece suits to church every Sunday who were cold, unpleasant, and hateful while claiming to be of God. I have witnessed people at church in sweatpants fall to their knees in awe of God as they sing him praises.
Am I saying that you are wrong for wanting to dress nice for church? No way. There is no need to ditch your ties. I wore a tie almost every Sunday for a spell, but now I choose to dress in a more casual way. Am I any more or less spiritual because of my change in apparel? There is no correlation. I didn’t make the decision in result of feeling less spiritual, I dressed down for the purpose of comfort and trying to be more genuine. The khakis and tie just wasn’t me, so I settled for jeans and a button down or a nice t-shirt.
The point is this: we, The Body, need to realize that when someone walks into a place of worship, our job is not to criticize them or judge their spirituality. Our place is to love them as God does. We are meant build a relationship with them, look past their outward appearance, and get to know their heart.
“Eyes, so easily deceived, might judge more rightly with lids closed, allowing ears and heart to remain wide open.” – Richelle E. Goodrich, The Beauty of Ugh