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“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone,               the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

As the preacher of the newly founded church stepped up to deliver his message, he appeared in front of his new congregation in a sweat shirt and torn jeans. While the days of the more formal clerics have gone by the wayside, the person who told me did not consider this to be proper attire for giving a sermon in God’s House.  I remember some of the comments in my own church awhile back when several teenage girls took up the offering in shorts and flip flops during a summer worship service.  I can likewise recall a time when I was conducting personnel interviews for a maintenance position. One of the individuals showed up wearing a dress shirt and necktie. I was actually quite impressed and could tell that he was making an attempt to put his best foot forward. It’s been said that clothes make the man, meaning that dressing well helps people to be successful. Depending on your age and point of reference, I’m not so sure this holds true anymore.

Decades ago, people used to host ‘come as you are’ parties. They would phone their friends and neighbors regarding an impromptu party which was to begin immediately upon their arrival. The idea was that whatever you were wearing when you were called was what you were expected to wear to the party. Older men will no doubt remember a time when certain clubs and restaurants had a rule of “tie and jacket required” before you would be seated. Consider too the first time you saw the sign, “No shirt, no shoes, no service” posted on the entrance of your favorite convenience store. Many of us are have found ourselves in the position of criticizing others for wearing what we considered to be inappropriate attire for certain situations. I have always held the philosophy that I should wear the best I have on those occasions where there should be respect shown for a person or presence at a noteworthy event.

Jesus uses attire as in interesting symbol in His Parable of the Banquet. In the story, He compares the kingdom of heaven to a wedding banquet a king is throwing for his son. When those who have been invited refuse to come, the king becomes angry and said they were not worthy. He then summons his servants to extend the invitation to as many as can be found. In that era, appropriate attire would have been furnished for those in attendance. So “when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matthew 22:11-13). In actuality, neglecting to wear the proper garment had nothing to do with clothing as such. It has a deeper meaning according to Matthew Henry who wrote – “Many are called to the wedding-feast, that is, to salvation, but few have the wedding-garment, the righteousness of Christ, the sanctification of the Spirit. Then let us examine ourselves whether we are in the faith, and seek to be approved by the King.”

In the case of the King of Kings, Jesus would never turn down the opportunity for a relationship with anyone. In fact, He said so: “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). He wants us to come just as we are with all of our baggage. He understands our imperfections and our sinful nature. While the concept of ‘come as you are’ supports Christ’s overall message, the precise phrase is not found in scripture. In modern society, the philosophy has become a bit misrepresented. It has been diluted at times by well-intended Christians who extend the invitation to others to know Christ but somehow give the impression that it’s not necessary to change. To the adulterous woman who would have been stoned had it not been for Jesus’ intervention, He said that He would not condemn her for her wrongdoings; however, He also instructs her to “Go now, and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11). Jesus doesn’t want His grace to blind us into thinking that it makes no difference how we live. He said, “”Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mathew 11:28). Afterwards . . . He would expect us to act and try to do better.

REFLECTION:  Have you ever given anyone the impression that any behavior is acceptable as long as they come to the Lord? Will you give serious thought as to how you interpret the gift of God’s grace to others?


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