Don’t be a stumbling block

Some years ago, while I was still at the seminary, we had a special one-off session with a man named Scott who spoke to us about proper dress and appropriate decorum as we enter into the ministry as under-shepherds of the Great Shepherd.  I am not sure why this particular class is no longer done with students today, perhaps we just needed it more. 

Be that as it may, one student who loved to wear an ear-ring (that was coming into fashion in those days – yes also for guys) asked whether it was appropriate for him to keep wearing it?  Scott answered by saying that if it proved to be a stumbling block for one of his parishioners, he would encourage him to consider removing it.  But it wasn’t just ear-rings that we needed to be careful about.  He also suggested that those who had ‘transitioning glasses’ should change them so that people could always see our eyes.  He also encouraged those who had a moustache and/or beard to ensure they were kept neat and trimmed, for people needed to see our lips when we spoke, which is especially important to people who are suffering from hearing loss. 

The question inevitably came up about whether wearing, jeans or shorts, leather jackets etc was appropriate.  Scott encouraged us that we should be careful not to dress-down, but to dress a ‘cut’ above the rest.   Scott reminded us that in the first place, it was not a question of whether we were comfortable or keeping up with the latest fashion.  In our role as ministers of the gospel, we should remember that we were representing a holy God who was rather particular about how people dressed when they approached him in the temple.  Secondly, Scott reminded us that as gospel servants we want to give our listeners the idea that the gospel is worthy of our best efforts and if they see us dressing-down, it may give the wrong idea that we don’t think the gospel message is not all that important.  And then thirdly, related to the previous point, Scott encouraged us not to be a stumbling block to people hearing the gospel by the way we are dressed. 

Since all the above primarily refers to ministers of the gospel, the question may be asked how should congregational members be dressed?  Well, in a sense, not all that different than those who bring the gospel message, after all, we are all ‘ministers’ of the gospel.   It is worthwhile asking the questions when you are preparing for worship, “Is what I am wearing showing proper respect to my God and Saviour? Will it cause further and unnecessary offence to the gospel? Will, what is emblazoned on my jeans or jacket or cap (hat) or tee-shirt hinder a brother or sister from hearing the good news of Jesus today?   

Please do not be dismissive of these questions.  Sunday worship is not the day to make a fashion statement or any other statement.  It is a day we can worship the Lord together and so let us be careful not to be a stumbling block. We want people to hear the good news of Jesus and that our worship is pleasing in His sight. JZ