“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Romans 13:14 NIV)
There are some days it just doesn’t pay to see what the world is up too. BUt like a car wreck, even though you know you shouldn’t, you just can’t help peeking. This past Saturday Morning I opened up the newspaper to see an article about a big prostitution sting in Columbus. As a long time advocate of Gracehaven, a ministry in Columbus dedicated to getting women out of the a life of prostitution and slavery, I was glad to see this. Unfortunately, my gladness turned quickly to dismay when I saw this picture on the front page of one of the men getting arrested for solicitation.
Yep, there on the front page was the symbol of our United Methodist Church proudly emblazoned on the back of someone being arrested. My first thought was,” you know if he was going to do something this awful, which is bad enough, didnt’ he have any other t-shirt to wear?” Didn’t this guy have an old Black Sabbath or Pantera shirt somewhere?
Of course we don’t know this guy’s story. It may be he got the shirt at a free store or a clothing bank. The UMC symbol may have meant nothing to him. Or he could be a life long member of the UMC, did in fact participate in disaster relief and still struggle with the demons of sin in his life. We’ll probably never know.
But what caught my eye was the simple dichotomy of someone wearing a t-shirt announcing the good work of our church while being arrested for a crime, especially this crime. It’s painfully obvious that what he is wearing does not represent his heart.
But really, other than the fact he got caught, he isn’t so far from the rest of us is he? I mean, if we were to be completely honest a lot of us live our lives the same way. We do a pretty good job of playing Christian dress up. We put on the vestments of our faith as if that truly represents our faith. But often what we wear, the “Us” we present to the world, does not reflect the true us underneath. There is a dichotomy between who we say we are and who we truly are underneath the clothing.
It’s easy to put on faith to dress up nice for the church directory culture. It’s another to allow Jesus to truly change who we are underneath. Why? Because we have become comfortable with our routine. It doesn’t demand a lot from us. Look one way, be another. We don’t like change and naturally dig our heels in when it occurs. We sense that there might be a sacrifice involved. maybe even some pain as Jesus sets about the serious work of transformation.
Maybe it’s time we have someone stand up and shout, if not “The Emperor has no clothes” than certainly “the clothes and the heart don’t match.” We need to stop accepting that this is an appropriate way to live. As if God is somehow pleased with us putting on clean clothes over a stained spirit. We need to be changed.
This is why Paul encourages us to “put on Jesus Christ” The theme of our clothing ourselves with Jesus runs throughout Paul’s writings. It occurs several times. I can understand why Paul loved this imagery. Paul calls us to wrap ourselves up in Jesus. To allow Jesus to drape himself over everything that we are. That’s different than clothing oneself with religion. It means to clothe yourself in a relationship with Jesus. to allow that relationship to permeate everything that we are.
Maybe its time we take Paul’s words to heart. Let’s stop playing games. Let’s clothe ourselves with Jesus and be changed so that what we wear and our heart finally match.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><