After finishing a meal at a restaurant one Sunday afternoon, I passed by a table of ladies adorned in lovely white dresses. I realize that it is no longer politically correct to compliment ladies in our society but, being old fashion, I paused and told the women how nice they all looked. I sensed they were Christian ladies, and I was not wrong. I asked if they were singing in the choir, and so were all dressed alike. No, I was told. They were dressed in white in order to celebrate the taking of communion which their church does infrequently, and so it was a special day to them.
The idea of people dressing up to go to Church is being lost to this generation. There was a time when young boys shined their shoes and put on a clean shirt to go to Sunday School and Church. Young girls wore pretty dresses. Mothers wore hats, gloves, and a lovely dress. Fathers wore a coat and a tie.
How different is the attire today when the Church gathers to worship. It is not uncommon to see worship leaders standing to minister in blue jeans and a T-shirt. Their clothing may even be torn or dirty. Ladies wear casual clothing such as slacks, and sometimes shorts. It seems that there is no longer any thought given to what is to be worn in the House of the Lord.
In days past, when thought was given on what to wear on Sundays for worship, the issue had nothing to do with social or economic status. People simply believed it was just the right thing to do to put on one’s Sunday’s best.
This belief was rooted in part, in a Biblical principle established by God following the Exodus by the Hebrews from Egypt. Moses was told by the Lord that a special garment was to be made for Aaron the High Priest. “And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and beauty.” (Exodus 28:2)
The proper dressing of Aaron was designed for glory. Not Aaron’s glory, but the glory of God. Aaron would simply reflect and visibly manifest God’s glory, for His glory is to be one of the supreme concerns of all of God’s people. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31) So the garments that covered Aaron were designed to reflect glory, and they were designed to reflect beauty, and in this are several principles.
First, the clothing set Aaron apart. The Aaronic priesthood was distinct from the Levitical priesthood, and it was distinct from the people. Why? Because Aaron represented God, who is also distinct from His creation. In the New Testament era every believer is said to be a priest unto God. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (1 Peter 2:9) Christians represent God, and so believers need to dress with that in mind, especially in the hour of worship.
Second, the beautiful clothing was designed to cover up the ugliness of the person who was ministering to others. The Fall of humanity in Adam, in the Garden of Eden, has extracted a terrible toll on the body, which is now subject to decay. Beautiful garments can cover that, as Christians anticipate a new resurrected body.
Third, the beautiful garments of Aaron are a reminder that when believer-priests come into the Lord’s House of worship, He does not want us to come in filthy rags.
Those who argue for casualness in dress during corporate worship may do so in order to attract sensitive seekers to the services. It can even be argued that too much emphasis on dressing up for church is a distraction. I would concede that this is a possibility. I have heard about a woman who asked her husband on the way home from a Sunday morning service, “Did you see the new hat Mrs. Jones had on?” “No,” said her husband. “Well did you see that lovely dress Janet Smith was wearing?” “No,” responded her husband. “Surely you saw those darling gloves her daughters were wearing. They were so cute.” “Nope,” was the answer. “My goodness!” said his wife with a huff, “A lot of good it does for YOU to go to church!”
The book of James tells the Church not to be an elitist about a person’s dress but to receive individuals with open arms. “And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?” (James 2:3) However, when a person comes into the presence of God, even the clothing reflects that state of consecration. Creature comfort is not to mean more to us than glorifying God.
How a person dresses on any occasion reflects their attitude towards that occasion. If going to Church is a casual event, then individuals will dress accordingly. If worship is a sacred event, then that too will be reflected in the way a person dresses. It is something to consider.
If Christians begin to dress again for glory and beauty, as the Holy Spirit leads, it will help to transform, in a lovely way corporate worship. Young people will be taught respect for the House of the Lord. Artistic values will be instilled. The heart will be drawn to the Lord God, who is the ultimate source and fountain of art and beauty.