BIGNOR to UPPER BEEDING
There is something ‘sanitised’ about the South Downs Way and there is a sense in which this part of my route is less satisfying. It is generally easier to walk which is fine, but it feels different sharing it with so many other people. Almost all of the other walkers I have encountered are carrying small day bags or no pack at all. I had a thought at one point, passing a family group all of whom looked like they had dressed for a day shopping in the city – ‘They’re not taking this seriously, and they are intruding on my journey’.
Extract from Reflections Journal – Thursday 17th August 2017
I fear that I mat get into some trouble with Chris for using this photo of him in my reflections. He is not a fashion trend follower, and he enjoys shopping in charity shops, but I don’t think that he would want his friends seeing him modelling the bright orange jacket, shorts and sandals with socks!
I do not envy my children and their generation. They are growing up in an era where their every move is under scrutiny from their peers – friends or otherwise – and the pressure to conform is perhaps greater now than it has ever been. When I was a teenager I had no idea about fashion trends. Growing up without the luxury/pressure of the internet or mobile phones meant that I didn’t know what was in and what was not, and to be honest it wouldn’t have mattered much if I did because I would have worn the clothes that my parents bought for me. Wearing the ‘wrong thing’ today can result in almost instant humiliation through a social media post and can have a devastating impact on the mental health of a youngster.
As adults we are not immune to the pressure to conform. Not only to the world but also to the expectations of others in our church communities. The Bible has quite a lot to say about what we should wear. The Old Testament tends to be quite legalistic about the matter and in the New Testament we can read several guidelines that seem at first quite restrictive, but that are quite practical in context. At the heart of what these passages say is the idea of modesty – dressing in a way that is appropriate for the occasion.
I am sure most of us have heard the expression ‘wearing our Sunday best’ and I understand he idea of ‘making an effort’ in what we wear when we gather for worship in our church buildings, but I have witnessed, and encountered myself, the judgement of one Christian on another based solely on what they are wearing. A type of judgement that measures an individual’s spiritual health, or lack of it, on the fact that they wore jeans to church, or they didn’t wear a tie.
There have been times in my life when my ‘Sunday best’ was the same as my Monday to Friday best. It was the best of the limited wardrobe I had to choose from and it wasn’t going to win any fashion awards. Yet, I was on more than one occasion left to feel like somehow, I had failed the entry requirements or dress code in some churches. I believe that there are many in our society today who long to come into our churches. Who long to get closer to God, but who fear that they won’t be acceptable or presentable enough. Perhaps because they have themselves experienced such judgementalism before or because their understanding of church has been misguided. They may not have clothes other than those they stand up in – or lay down on the street in – they may be existing on a tight financial budget and can’t afford or justify having something in their wardrobe just for Sunday, or they might be coming from a worldly cultural situation where what they wear – or the little they wear – earns them enough money to survive for another day or two.
I pray that God will daily empower me to never judge anybody by what they do or don’t wear. That I never cast my eyes up and down somebody who enters a church that I am involved in and measure their faith by their fashion.
There are two passages in the Bible that strike me as being the most important ones when it comes to what we wear. The first is this:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Colossians 3:12 NIV
If we take the time to make sure that we get dressed properly before we head out into the world, or head off to church on Sunday morning, then maybe we will be better placed to meet people where they are, regardless of what they are wearing, and share the Good News of Jesus with them in our words, actions and attitude.
And the second is this:
Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Ephesians 6:11-18 NIV
We may not win any fashion shows, but we will be properly dressed for the battle of our lives.