Volume. XXI, No. 6
From the Pastorís heart: Clothing and dress code
I have not subscribed to any newspapers for last few years. It is not because I do not like to read them or because I am not able to pay for subscriptions. There is only one simple reason - pictures in the papers. More precisely, it is related to the styles and ways that people wear clothes. Many a times I found near naked ladies’ photos in the papers. I felt embarrassed whenever I found them. Besides, I did not want to show them to my children. So I wrote a letter to the editor of one particular newspapers I had subscribed to about the reason why I was displeased with his papers. Of course, he never replied, and more honestly, I did not expect him to write anything back to me. In the airplanes, I watch in-flight news programs and sometimes fashion shows are screened. Then, I begin to wonder who would want to wear such clothes. I see more of models’ bodies than their clothes because some clothes have only scarce of cloths. Fashions and personal appearance styles come and go, and styles may be very subjective. Thus, it is not easy to say which style is better than other styles. However, it does not mean that there is no biblical guideline for dress code.
1 Timothy 2:9 says, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.” 1 Peter 3:3-4 say, “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”
There are at least three principles we must consider. First, we need to pay attention to our appearance. The fact that the Lord has a few words to talk about our appearance indicates that we need to consider this matter with all seriousness. Therefore, saying, “I don’t care how I am looked,” is not justifiable. Second, we need to know the boundaries we must keep. Being conscious of our appearance does not mean that we have to be devoted to it. 1 Timothy 2:9 instructs women that they ought to adorn themselves with modest apparel. “Modest” means “well behaved, respectable, or befitting.” Various groups have their own dress codes. There are business dress code, casual or professional dress code, basketball players’ dress code, military or police dress code, students dress code, or workers’ dress code in many industries. I have known some Christians who take Christian liberty to far extreme and say that it does not matter how we put on our clothes. However, we must exercise our self-control and show our modesty. Three, the outer appearance must be a reflection of the inner condition. We do not cover up our true selves by putting on exquisite and magnificent clothes. What we put on must be a good reflection of our inner values and character.
People often wear certain types of clothing or choose certain manners of wearing clothing with deliberate purposes. Quite often it is true that our styles of wearing clothing are interpreted in terms of social class, income, occupation, ethnic and religious affiliation, marital status, and even sexual orientation. When people see us, they will understand us according to their impressions by looking at our appearance. We may say, “it is not fair. I do not mean it.” However, a matter of truth is that we cannot control “the code of interpretation” by others. Our appearance has its own social message, whether it is the same as what we intend to show or not. It is not too hard to find some examples. We have heard about skinheads. If I dress like skinhead and cut my hairs like one of them, how would you like to think of me? If I wear like bikie gangs and grow beard, what would be your impression of me? If I dress like Hare Krishna, would you feel comfortable with me? I am trying to say that their appearances are either good or bad. What I am saying is that our appearance associates us with certain philosophies, religious groups, or movements. Men or women involved in homosexuality sometimes dress in clothing and fashions that readily identify them as gay. Why is it so? It is because appearance is your and my language to the world. Look at Orthodox Jews. Do you want to wear their style of clothing? Do you want to wear turbans like Sikhs? What we want to ask here is this: Do you want your appearance to say something about you that may not be true? Think about the gay parade, and about how they show themselves to the world. They are showing their values to the world through their clothing, slogans and symbols. Appearance speaks! Certain standards of dress or personal appearance show our values.
Testimony and edification
At this point, I want to be very frank and honest. I am often embarrassed by the appearance of Christians. Women are wearing shirts, necklines coming too low and showing parts of their breasts. Their tops are not long enough to cover the midriff. Honestly speaking, when I have to speak with those ladies, I do not know where to put my eyes. Sometimes, during my conversations with them, without any thought I may look at one direction. Then, suddenly those ladies change their postures or cover certain parts of their bodies. Suddenly I come back to myself and feel embarrassed, as if I have done anything wrong and they have found my faults. They also wear sleeveless tops without a blouse, jacket, or sweater. Hemlines and slits or other openings come too high. Some skirts are so small and too short. They look like undergarments, rather than outer garments. Some women wear dresses, pants, and shirts, just too tight. They show their body lines too much, including busts and hips. Can’t they wear a bit more loose-fitting clothes? Ladies’ hairstyles should be neat, orderly, and feminine. Avoid cutting-edge fads and cuts so short that they take on a masculine look. If people have hard time to know whether we are male or female by our appearance, we are not doing well. We are not giving a testimony even about who we are. We are not-of-the-world people as Christians. However, we are also in the world, too. It is important for us to be the light of the world. Even in our appearance, we must show our diligent following of Jesus. Our appearance should a reflection of our inner beauty in Christ Jesus. It is not unusual to see, nowadays, the hips of men and women because their pants just do not cover their bottoms! What kind of messages are they trying to give to the world? There are certain fashions that allow us to show our undergarments. Have people lost their common senses? Christians, show your modesty in your appearance.
Lovingly, Your Pastor