Does God care what we wear to church?
One of my favorite authors of recent years is Henri Nouwen. His writings have succeeded in making me think about things in new ways. Since the “mind of God” is one of my pet topics, imagine my surprise to read this in his book Reaching Out:
"We should all have the mind of Jesus Christ, but we do not all have to have the mind of a schoolteacher, a carpenter, a bank director, a congressman, or whatever socio-economic or political group... "
I think that the point here is that various conventions and techniques are not part of the matrix of absolutes that make God the supreme authority. I grew up with the firm teaching that one wore stiff, uncomfortable clothes to church and that this would make God happy. I’ve been in churches where those who did not dress "properly" were scorned. Perhaps you have too. But does God care what you wear? Probably not. You could make a case for being clean, and dressing well as a sign of respect, but various passages make it clear that our choice of (modest) clothing is not high on God’s list of priorities.
Some people think that all U.S. Christians are Republican. Others think that all moderate Christians are Democrats and that Republican Christians are fanatics. Is our political party one of the things which weighs upon the mind of God? I don’t think so.
Nouwen goes on to explain how even he was sucked into confusing technique with righteousness. He lived for several years in a community of students with special needs. They would celebrate Eucharist together (Communion), and were comfortable with each other. They developed a non-traditional, but loving and natural method of observing this remembrance of Christ. It all felt very spontaneous to them.
But, a few new students eventually joined them and wanted to change things a bit. Nouwen says they were surprised to discover that they felt like telling the newcomers "that’s not how we do it here."
He continues, "We had to face the fact that we had become clannish, substituting our minds for the mind of Jesus Christ."
Isn’t that powerful? I think it’s time to check what’s in my mind and make sure that it’s not focused on trivialities, techniques, or traditions which are not in God's mind.