BY MICHAEL SIMMELINK
I was raised in a conservative Lutheran church in a Midwestern town. It was expected that my sister and I dressed up to attend church. It didn’t have to be suit and tie, but there were a few simple rules we had to follow. No tennis shoes with slacks. No jeans. No t-shirts. A collar was preferred. My sister wore dresses or skirts a fair amount. She wore earrings like my mom, and I had a couple clip-on ties to be like my dad.
Then we moved to another town. Our new church had less suits and more jeans. Some of my friends would show up to church in t-shirts and ragged shorts. My parents felt the pressure and let me get on the “causal-wear” bandwagon. I used all the well-worn excuses. “It’s about what’s on the inside, not the outside; I don’t want to be materialistic; I should be able to worship in what’s comfortable.”
I realized that as my dress for church got lazier, so did my attitude on worship. I stopped taking notes on sermons. I seemed to misplace my Bible more often. More casual dress was supposed to make my worship experience more intimate, but I was simply checking out.
I found there’s something sacred in the preparation of getting ready to go to church. Maybe nostalgia has more to do with that than anything. But when you spend a little more time in the shower, make sure you didn’t miss any spots shaving, and choose to wear the best clothes you got, it means something.
When I’ve visited Haiti and had the opportunity to worship there, it’s a far cry from our evangelical circles. People who feed families off ten dollars a week come dressed up in suit and tie, flowing dresses, polished shoes, and ornamental hats. Church is a big deal to them. They know they’re entering the presence of the Lord in his house, so you give your best effort as a result. A lot of kids take their only bath of the week on Sunday morning.
But when you spend a little more time in the shower, make sure you didn’t miss any spots shaving, and choose to wear the best clothes you got, it means something.
I think they’re onto something. What we wear to church isn’t about our comfort or what “works” for us. We’re entering into the house of the Lord. We could stand to have our worship services look a little more like the veneration before the throne of God in Revelation 7, or the reverence of Levite priests in Leviticus 16. Jewish rabbis often use the phrase, “know before whom you stand.” Dress is a part of that, and we could stand to remember that more often.