Called to be Clothed
Our closets are full. Maybe not yours or mine in particular, but as a culture our closets are full. We in the Western world spend trillions of dollars every year supporting the clothing and textile industry. But it’s not all about keeping warm or cool in deference to the environment around us. A great deal of it has to do with fashion, and fashion is popular for one primary reason: identity. We dress ourselves to communicate who we are or want to be at the core. Fashion conveys worldview. We can be chic or casual; vintage or versatile; funky, racy or Indy. We speak volumes without a word by how we dress.
So when we think about the Church, which is often referred to as the Body of Christ, we may want to think about how, figuratively speaking, it dresses. What identity does the Church bestow on believers, and how important is it to us as members and as individuals?
“Strip off the old”, charges Paul in his letter to believers in Colosse who were learning how to be the Body of Christ rather than the minions of any one of the thousands of Greek gods and goddesses.
“Rid yourselves of the rancid garments of lust and greed, anger, slander, lying and twisted morality”. These garments sully and taint the wearer. But Christ has done something for the Body that she could not do for herself. He has made her clean; the stain of rebellion has been scoured and disinfected spotless. The old clothes must go. There is no place for them in her new identity. She must put on something fresh and new. It says everything about her.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves,” instructs Paul. “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” He adds forgiveness to the list and then summarizes the new clothing style in words reminiscent of Jesus’ vision statement we keep hearing.
“Over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” This clothing is not mismatched with cloying jackets covering angry, seething undergarments. It’s one unified and integrated style tied together under the label “LOVE”.
We cannot wash ourselves nor can we provide these clothes for ourselves. Both are out of our reach. But Jesus makes them available to us within the Church. He washes each of us by His cleansing forgiveness when we come to Him in humble submission, and He provides the new garments by His indwelling Holy Spirit.
But we have to dress each day. We don’t wake miraculously decked out in the new finery. We have to make a conscious choice to embrace compassion and kindness rather than slipping back into the familiar garb of criticism and sharp-tongued responses. We must choose humility and patience rather than pride and anxiety.
This is where the Church can help one another. We can be there for each other, helping slide arms into sleeves, feet into pant legs, and tying that belt of love around the waist. We are a Body designed to lovingly care for each other and we will get further in the dressing process if we come together rather than remain separate. We have a new identity and it’s time to dress for it. We are called to be clothed.