Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How Appropriate!

I love words. Duh! I wouldn't be writing a blog if I didn't, but I especially love words that clearly change with time. One such word is "appropriate". In truth, the definition hasn't changed, but the application has changed dramatically over my life time. I makes my heart ache to think of all the wasted energy, strained emotions, and damaged relationships that were part of my high school years because of the battle over what was and wasn't considered appropriate clothing, hair length, and accessories. Yes, we are talking about the late 60's, at a Christian school in deep south Georgia, but it just seemed like every member of the the church (many of whom were connected to the school also) was a self appointed member of the What's Appropriate Committee. Today, many people, young and old, walk into the church building wearing blue jeans, T-shirt, and sandals and no one gives it a second look or thought. Back then, where I was, that was a Tar & Feathering offense. I have so many memories and stories of comments and criticisms from "church folks" about my attire back then that it's amazing that I came away from all that with a passion for preaching. At the very least I've learned that what's appropriate is relative to the times and places we find ourselves.
James slammed the brethren for making distinctions between members and giving preference to the finely dresses wealthy members. The Corinthians were evidently cliquish even to the point of not waiting or sharing the Lord's Supper with those who were poorer or not part of their group. All this in spite of our Lord's clear warnings about judging others and defining them by externals rather than their hearts.
So what is appropriate today? We still have folks who think the assembly is a fashion opportunity, or who have some preconceived notion about what you MUST wear "in the presence of God" on Sunday morning. That's not only a incorrect theology, but a prescription for self-righteousness. We dress for God 24/7! Everything else image management.
I have said for years that the only things that have any bearing on what's appropriate for any Christian anytime, even during the assembly, is modesty and cleanliness. Even that, sometimes, is in the proverbial eye of the beholder. What is always appropriate is kindness, consideration, humility, and tolerance. I know Jesus wasn't a fashion critic, but a heart searcher. If we let looks keep us from learning about the heart of someone, we've stopped being like Jesus. And if we're more concerned about our outer appearance than we are with our inner spirit - well, that's just spiritually inappropriate.

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