Last month I wrote a devotional called FIGHTING NAKED. ( If you missed it, you can read it at www.ceec.church/210716 ) My point was as simple as could be - DON'T !!!
But there's a big difference between battle armor and our normal clothing. Frankly, though putting on the full armor of God is critical, the people around you will not typically see that armor. It deals with the spiritual warfare, sort of like "concealed carry" - you're armed and protected, but no one around you actually KNOWS that you're armed and protected.
But then there's the clothing people will see as they deal with you. This is NOT a devotional about jeans and dresses, but I will use them as my opening illustration. 🙂
Some days ago I was meeting with my close friend and mentor Abp Charles Travis, and he and I were commenting upon the way someone nearby was dressed. It was hard NOT to notice, because "dressed" was an understatement; the amount of clothing covering this person's body was minimal, extraordinarily tight and left nothing to the imagination. Bishop Chuck mentioned a woman he'd seen at the bank earlier in the week who looked as though she had rolled out of bed in nothing but her bra and panties and headed out to do her banking. That led to a discussion of a brand of jeans that are strategically bleached so as to draw one's attention immediately to the area around the zipper.
The point is that the people in the world are deliberate about dressing so as to reveal a great deal about themselves and what they value. The way we choose to wear clothing says a great deal about us, our upbringing, our character. But let's look BEYOND physical dress and explore an important element of clothing from the biblical perspective.
Peter tells us, "clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another." Humility doesn't seek to draw attention to us, but to others. It lifts up the accomplishments and work of those with whom we serve. Humility doesn't lift itself up, nor does it insist on having it's own way.
The founding resolution of the CEEC.CHURCH deliberately includes the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1886 because it sets forth an humble basis of humility in its call for unity in the Body of Christ. One of my favorite sentences from the Quadrilateral states, "In all things of human ordering or human choice, relating to modes of worship and discipline, or to traditional customs, this Church is ready in the spirit of love and humility to forego all preferences of her own." In other words, it is NOT "our way or the highway." We are deliberate about building bridges, so long as Christ is the foundation for the connection.
Paul tells us in Romans chapter 13 that we need to clothe ourselves in the Lord Jesus Christ, and not even THINK about how to gratify the desires of our flesh. Now there's an interesting phrase. How exactly does one clothe themselves in Christ? If he hadn't explained it in another one of his letters, we may be left guessing; perhaps we could have missed it. But the verse for today is drawn from Paul's deeper and more extensive explanation, the one he writes to the Colossians.
He tells them, since they have been RAISED with Christ, to set their hearts and minds on things above. (There's a nice mental picture there!!) Then he goes on to say:
"Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. "
COMPASSIONATE HEARTS - Loving the world around us with the love of Christ. Not allowing our hearts to be hardened. Caring for the pain we see.
KINDNESS - The word Paul chooses here refers to "useful acts" that meet real needs. You know, the ones you saw when you looked with a loving heart.
HUMILITY - The attitude of a servant. Just because you're in a position to help someone who needs it does not make you better or higher. We are who we are and we have what we have because of the gracious hand of God. Someone once said, "I'm just a poor servant helping another poor servant find the guy who give out the bread."
MEEKNESS - This speaks to gentleness. People need to be touched by a gentle and loving hand; not one who is in a hurry to get away. Caring and gentleness will take time. But never forget that Jesus said He is hiding among the poorest and neediest among us, and that which we do for the LEAST of our brethren we are actually doing to Him.
PATIENCE - The people to whom we reach out may not respond immediately, except to take the sandwich or drink or blanket. Their lives may not change for some time. But that is why the FIRST characteristic of true love is patience.
BEARING WITH ONE ANOTHER - We grate and rub against one another, chafing and bruising.
That's why Paul ties this element to the next one so closely.
FORGIVING EACH OTHER - Here's the other side of the coin. As God's chosen ones, we are required to forgive. REQUIRED is a challenging word, so Paul reminds us who are required to forgive that WE HAVE BEEN forgiven much more by Jesus.
ABOVE ALL - Woah!! Here comes an IMPORTANT PART ---- DON'T MISS IT …..
PUT ON LOVE, WHICH BINDS EVERYTHING TOGETHER IN PERFECT HARMONY - This is an image of the final element of clothing that ties everything else together. It completes the outfit. Without this, the other pieces may be nice, but they are not a proper ensemble.
But LOVE makes the difference and binds it all together. PERFECT harmony.
My wife often has to send me back to my closet to change a shirt so that it will match the trousers or jacket I am wearing. My ability to "match" is seriously limited. (It is one of the reasons I like a black clergy shirt, black trousers and a black pair of shoes. I MATCH !!! ) She, on the other hand, has an amazing ability to match everything she is wearing in subtle ways that I catch more and more of throughout the day. It is a beautiful thing.
LOVE makes the difference.
Once you've put on LOVE above all the rest, then you're dressed for success in His service.