Saturday, March 29, 2014

Snot on my armor

{A short Biblical theology of fashion}

In his mercy, God clothed Adam and Eve. The serpent promised that their eyes would be opened if they ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. The irony is that their eyes were opened—unto death. They stood there, naked. Fig leaves were not enough to cover their shame.

All of us—men and women—wear clothes, everyday. The Bible has so much to say about fashion and what we should wear. Except for the occasional mention of modesty, however, our theology of clothing is as thin as a shabby T-shirt in the winter storm.

Our Lord Jesus declares, it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person. What defiles a person, he says, proceeds from the heart. By the same principle, it is not what I put on my body that defiles me, my heart defiles me. I could be covered from head to toe and still be defiled. Living out a Biblical understanding of clothing is not about what I wear, but why I wear what I wear.

1. I wear clothes as a reminder of Adam and Eve's former glory.
Adam and Eve walked with God in Eden. They had nothing to prove, nothing to hide. Their lost their glory when they rebelled against God. When they felt shame for the first time, their impulse was to cover themselves, though their leafy garments were insufficient. God did not reprimand them for their desire to cover themselves. Instead, he clothed them with something far better — garments of skin that required the spilling of blood. Therefore, returning to our naked state is not an option. Our reality is now outside Eden. Therefore, we clothe ourselves.

2. I wear clothes as a confession that I am not who I ought to be.
The king of Nineveh took off his royal robe and covered himself with sackcloth and ashes. He commanded his people to do likewise.The Lord looked on the nation with mercy and forgave them of their sin. I put on clothes every morning as a prayer unto the Lord for mercy. I confess that I am a rebel, I cannot save myself. I am not enough. My clothes are my sackcloth and ashes, a sign of my repentance.

3. I wear clothes as a confession that Jesus Christ is my perfect covering.
I am hidden in the death and the life of my Lord Jesus Christ. I can stand before the Father's throne because he sees the perfect obedience of his Son. I put on my clothes — in remembrance of him. Christ is my perfect covering, my armor of light. Christ is my helmet of salvation. Christ is my breastplate of righteousness. Christ is my belt of truth. Christ is my combat boots, preparing me to preach the Gospel of peace. Christ is my shield. He gives me the sword of the Spirit, his living Word.

4. I wear clothes as a reminder of the Church's present labor and future glory.
The Lamb of God laid down his life for his Bride, the Church. His blood purchased her fine linen of righteousness, bright and pure. While we wait for his return, we, his royal priesthood, shall labor in our priestly garments. We wear our priestly robes in service of others, in the presence of God. Our robes could look like office attires, nurses' scrubs, hospital gowns, military uniforms, firefighters' suits, a chef's hat, prison uniforms, or — my blouse and jeans. My priestly garment is currently covered with paint, snot, a splash of bath water, mud, cream cheese, and I smell like chocolate cookies. Somewhat like the priestly garments in the Old Testament, without so much blood.

I like pretty clothes. But I don't like to admit I like pretty clothes, because I don't want people to think I am vain and superficial, though I can be. There is nothing wrong with wearing pretty things, because it is not what I put on my body that defiles me. My heart defiles me; idolatry defiles me. Wearing things (pretty or not, long or short) for my own glory defiles me. People may judge me according to my outward appearance, but the Lord sees my heart. The Lord sees why I wear what I wear; he sees my intentions, my motivations. And that's a scarier thought.

So, why do I wear what I wear?

I change out of my pajamas in the morning out of respect for my children as we begin our homeschool. I put on my favorite things on Sundays because I get to stand before God in the midst of his congregation. I feel weird about wearing cross necklaces because the cross is the sign of my death penalty that Christ has paid. And I feel weird about seeing my death penalty decorated in gold and hanging around my neck. I don't wear WWJD bracelets because I think they are ugly. And I prefer my priestly garments to be non-ugly.

But what do I know? I have snot on me.

When I love certain things a little too much, I ask myself, "Am I willing to give this away?" I am learning, slowly, to hold all things loosely. Fabric, faux-fur, and leather are merely shadows of what is to come.

I read recently a story about an 80-year-old farmer in North Korea. In the cloak of darkness, he goes on a boat and drops scripture leaflets along the coastline of the hermit kingdom. “I pray over every gospel leaflet I throw into the sea," he says. "I pray for those who will read them as they wash up on the shore. This is now my profession, the most important task of my life.”

For this reason, he goes out into the night wearing his nicely pressed suit and a tie around his neck. He puts on his best. He knows for whom he is dressed; he knows of whom he is wearing.

And so must I.

My updated thoughts on a biblical theology of clothing: The Gospel on Our Sleeves.


estherliu said...

thank you.

Irene Sun said...

thank YOU. you and your purple eye shadow and your gray suede boots. =)