In Revelation 19:8, we are told that it is not our physical cloths that Jesus sees, but our righteous deeds. The righteous acts of the saints are the clothes of the Church. So with every motive of love that is exercised in choosing what to wear, whether casual or formal, we are putting on the true clothes of the church. This, remember, is what Jesus sees.
I was born and grew up in Australia, saved in my teens, attending a church on university campus, a church planted by a pastor from the States. This last detail is important, because I would marry his daughter one day, explaining why we now live in America. But such details also help frame a cultural faux pas, a fun story, I would love to start with. “Flip flops” are called “thongs” in Australia—an important detail—because when a pastor and his wife visited from America and came for dinner, the question was asked by her: “How casual do college students dress for Sunday Night Church?” Someone fired back: “Casual! The guys wear thongs!” Judging from the look on her face, only one thing was on her mind: men in G-strings! We had some explaining to do.
Fortunately, I have never been part of a church where the dress code was that casual. But I have been in situations, and I have also heard of them too, where one might think a person has turned up in a G-string, given the reaction. What this seems to demonstrate is the importance of this topic. With a new wave of culture wars emerged in the U.S., we can ill afford to be fighting the wrong things as Christians. So what do we say? Is dress code a hill to die on? Here is a question we will now address.
Clearing the Air
First, let me clear the air a little (I hope), by noting one verse used to argue against casual dress: Exodus 19:10, where Israel was about to receive the ten commandments, and where they were told to wash their cloths in preparation. This was a holiness affair. The mountain could not to be touched, lest people die. And in conjunction, people needed to make sure they were physically clean. But what needs to be noted is how Hebrews 12 actually quotes this passage, but by way of contrast: “ “For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest… But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering.” The contrast here is between physical external elements of holiness, key to establish in the early days of God’s revelation of himself, at times when symbols were needed, compared with what the writer concludes of the current era, i.e. that it is an era where ultimate realities are unseen.