“So what do you think? How do I look?” I did a little twirl in the kitchen and waited for my mom to answer.
“It depends on what you’re trying to say” she replied. “If you want to say that you are only interested in fun and attracting attention, then you look fine.” “But if you want to say that you are serious about this job and ready to get to work, then you need to go change.” And of course, she was right. The off-the-shoulder peasant blouse and gypsy skirt I had on was my favorite outfit, but it didn’t send the right message for a job interview. But the tailored blue blouse and navy pleated skirt said I was the right candidate for the job. The saying, “Clothes make the man,” is attributed to Mark Twain, but it’s believed that it originated with Shakespeare and could even go back as far as the days of the Greek empire. However we got it, the saying is true – we send a message about ourselves with our attire. That is why how we dress as believers and followers of Christ is so important. How we clothe ourselves speaks volumes about who Jesus is.
Mind you, I’m not talking about suits and ties for men or dresses vs. pants for women, and I’m certainly not saying we should only wear our “Jesus” T-shirts. And hear me loud and clear – I’m not saying that we should judge others by the clothes they wear. Paul talks about a different kind of “clothing” that all Christians should wear – clothing that draws attention away from us and onto our Savior. In fact, he says, “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). If the mission is to make Jesus known to the world, then dressing “in Jesus” is the best way to do it. Now I know what you’re thinking, “That sounds profound, but how do I actually pull that off?” Thankfully Paul doesn’t leave us with a command that we can’t realistically obey. He digs into the idea in his letter to the church in Colosse.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothes yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). This is the kind of “fashion” that never goes out of style. Every piece is an expression of the character and nature of Jesus Christ. But they do us no good if we own them and don’t wear them. Every day when I get ready for work, I stand in front of my closet and try to decide what to wear. I have an array of garments hanging there, but I’ve got to pull something off the hanger and put it on my body. Each of these Christ-like attributes are available to us through the Holy Spirit, but it is up to us to choose to put them on.
Compassion is simply a feeling of concern for someone else. It is that voice in your head that says, “That lady is too short to reach the top shelf.” “That little child has fallen down and is crying.” “That man is hungry and has no money.” Compassion sees another’s need.
Kindness does something about it. Kindness reaches for the pickles on the top shelf. Kindness bandages the scraped knee and hugs away the tears. Kindness runs into the sandwich shop and buys a turkey-and-swiss-on wheat and a bottle of water. Kindness does what compassion feels.
Humility sees self as the least important person in the picture. Hear this carefully, humility is not self-abasement or self-condemnation. It is simply saying, “I am second – I will put you first.”
Gentleness doesn’t get its feathers ruffled. Gentleness is meek – but it’s not wimpy. It takes a tremendous amount of strength to look past an offense and recognize the wounded heart behind the words and actions.
Patience is in it for the long-haul. Patience doesn’t give up and it doesn’t give in. Whether enduring stormy seas or days with no breeze in sight, patience stays the course until the harbor is in sight.
This is the day-to-day living out of clothing ourselves in Christ. It is letting the Spirit of Christ move our hearts and hands to respond as Jesus would.
In the fashion world, one piece – a belt or scarf – can “pull the whole outfit together.” Likewise, there is one more item we must not forget, one that Paul says “binds them all together in perfect unity”: love. He said, “Over all these, put on love” (v. 14). The truth is, there are many people doing all these good things. The difference is love. But it’s more than “love” in the Western understanding of the word. It is a love that flows from God into our own hearts and spills out on those around us in the form of all these other “garments.” It is the kind of love that seeks the very best for another, to the point of self-sacrifice. And like every good fashion show, it throws the spotlight back onto the Designer.
So what will you wear today Beloved? A striped shirt? A pair of jeans? Your favorite sweater? Don’t forget to put on Christ – the world needs to see Jesus in you.