“Jesus replied, ‘You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote: “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.”’” (Mark 7:6 NLT)
In the above verse Jesus is responding to some Pharisees and teachers of religious law who criticized Jesus’ disciples because they didn’t perform the Jewish tradition of hand washing before they ate. Jesus wasn’t simply criticizing them for washing their hands before they ate, their hypocrisy surfaced because they were substituting their own “rules” in place of the clear instructions of God. We tend to do that today.
Each church, as least in America, has its own set of “rules.” Of course, most churches have written beliefs that guide their theological position, but what becomes an issue, especially for new people, is their “unwritten” rules. Because over time, at least for the older folks, these “rules” supersede their theology, which leads to legalism and hypocrisy.
For the most part, proper dress isn’t nearly as strict as it used to be. Now the “rules” are more subtle, largely relating to how you come across relationally. For example, you want to be friendly, but not “too” friendly; you want to keep your kids in check and not let anyone know your marriage is in trouble; and for goodness’ sake, don’t be having a bad day at church.
Please understand, I’m being facetious, for often the people of the church don’t feel those ways at all, but new people coming in are afraid they do. So, what’s my point? God alone knows our heart and His alone is the only opinion that matters. On any given Sunday many, if not most of the people who attend church are on some level “having a bad day.” In my mind, that’s more reason TO come to church, than to stay away.
My grandparents, whom I called Mom and Papa John, were two of the godliest people I’ve ever known. When I was in my twenties, Papa John was very ill, unable to get out of bed. But one morning he got up showered, shaved, and put on his suit, as he would if he was dressing for church, and took a seat in his favorite chair. Mom Eley was busy in the kitchen fixing breakfast, so she let Papa John know it would just be a few minutes, and commented about how nice he looked and asked “Where are you going so dressed up?” Papa John just smiled.
A few minutes later she came to tell him his breakfast was ready, but he wasn’t there. He’d gone home to be with Jesus. He wanted to look his best for his Savior. That’s what I want in my life. Not only in how I dress, but in how I live and treat others. I believe that’s what Jesus desires of us.
The truth is, if you can’t be yourself in the presence of Jesus and Jesus followers, where on earth can you be. As Jesus lovers and followers, our “job” is to be salt and light, loving and inviting, not judging, and demanding. And none of us are perfect – yet! Hopefully, every day, inch by inch, we’re growing to become more and more like Jesus, because “dressing up” for Him is more internal than external. We don’t have to where formal attire, just be “dressed” in kindness and loving acceptance, not necessarily of how someone is living, but treating them like we wanted to be treated before we met Jesus.
Blessings, Ed 😊