Monday, October 6, 2014

Wearing the Gospel on our sleeves

Levi's were really cool in high school. All the cool people had them. The little red tag represented wealth and the ability to own a tiny piece of something from the United States. So fancy, so stylish.

The little red tag also cost a fraction of my father's salary as a pastor in Malaysia. They were way beyond my reach.

I don't have an older sister, but Wini comes really close. She introduced me to lipsticks. I was hanging out at her house one day, and she asked me whether I would like to try on her Levi's. I said, "really?!" She said, "really."

"It fits you well," she said. I was beaming. Beaming and exuding the coolness I had never known.

Imagine my surprise when she said, "Take my jeans! They are yours." I was floored.

Those jeans were perfect in every way. I loved the wash, the fit. I wore them everywhere. Everywhere.

They came with me to the United States a year later. Those were the days before Skype and Facebook. The faces and places I once knew were like a distant memory. I missed home so much that my body hurt.

Those jeans. I wore them to shreds. I wore them under the autumn sun, and I wore them in the dead of winter. They were to me a piece of something from home, the far country where it was always summer. I wore them in remembrance of Wini, of her love, and her kindness.

My three older sisters. Wini in more cool jeans, Janice, Serene, and me in front of Wini's house. Christmas, 1999.

Recently, I attempted to correct two mistakes I had made over the years when I taught girls about Biblical modesty. You can read my thoughts over at the Gospel Coalition blog, "The Gospel on Our Sleeves."

There, I explained how immodesty is the beginning of why we wear clothes, but Christ is the end. What we put on our bodies is a response, not a means, to forgiveness and righteousness in Christ. In other words, our clothes embody our response to the Gospel. Our clothes embody our worship. We put on our clothes in remembrance of Christ.

Some of the feedback I received asked me if I could give a guideline to how we should dress. I am always hesitant to give a list of what to wear and what not to wear, mainly because we are neither defiled nor made righteous by what we wear. We can be covered from head to toe and still be immodest. Having said that, I do see the benefits of fleshing out how we might wear the Gospel on our sleeves.

The dress code of God's children can be summed up in one word: Sacrifice.

In the Old Testament, the garments of priests were splattered with blood. Their work and worship entailed much slaughtering of various kinds of animals. Levitical priests stood before Yahweh, representing God's people, offering sacrifices unto God.

In the New Testament, God's people are the sacrifices. We are to present our bodies, our entire beings, as living sacrifices to Yahweh. This is our worship.

As living sacrifices, we get dressed with nothing to prove, nothing to hide.When our clothes are beautiful, let their beauty honor Christ. When our clothes comfort and protect, let them enable us to labor for Christ. When our clothes are means of expressing ourselves, let us proclaim Christ—truthfully, beautifully, and well.

Here are some questions I find helpful as I evaluate the intentions and desires of my heart about what I wear, what I buy, and what I choose to put on my children.

1. What am I trying to convey? Am I trying to prove something?

2. Am I able to control myself when I am shopping for clothes? Do I have a budget? Do I feel entitled to spend however much money on however many clothing I want?

3. Do I have things in my closet shoes, bags, rings, necklaces that I treasure a little too much? Am I willing to give them away?

4. Do I feel entitled to wear whatever I want whenever I want? Am I willing to give up my so-called rights of self-expression if my preference would not be good for others? Am I willing to sacrifice comfort in order to serve and edify others? Am I willing to sacrifice my time, resources, things for the edification and good of others?

5. Am I willing to submit to the instructions of my authority? 

6. Am I ready, at any given time, to open up my closet and give a portion of clothes and things away if I know someone in need? To give away even the things that are still useful to me?

7. Do I regularly purge my closet and give away clothes that I do not wear, or do I hoard?

The baby's uniform. Hat - check! Backpack - check! Jacket - check!

The garment of God's children is marked by sacrifice. Wini demonstrated her love for me when she gave me something that was precious to her.

I have a son who loves his bow-ties and blazers on Sunday mornings. He is learning to check his heart and ask whether he is wearing his Sunday best for his own glory or to honor God.

I have another son who loves soft and comfortable things. He loves his jeans and T-shirts. For Sunday worship, he is learning to give up a little comfort to honor the Lord and others by wearing a not-as-soft button down shirt, sometimes he would even throw on a tie.

I have yet another son, who is only one year old, but he is already making his preferences known. He knows exactly what he wants to wear: hats, backpacks, jackets, and puppets on both hands. He makes us laugh by running around in his funny outfits.

We get dressed in remembrance of Christ, of his love and his sacrifice. We get dressed in remembrance of the bridal garment that we will wear, in the city where there will be no need of sun or moon, where there will be no night, for the glory of God will be our Light.

Shark on his head, peacock on one hand, flamingo on the other.


Anonymous said...

khesed is so so cute!- Wini

Catherine Yong said...

thanks for the reminder...
i love how emeth and hanan has to learn the same thing in different ways. i'm a combination of those 2, sacrificing comfort to glorify self, creating a monster. lol >.>...i really do need God's grace.

and yes -- khesed is too adorable!!

love you jie :)

Jean Tsen said...

I am convinced that your sacrifice of clothes has made this little sister look cooler and more fashionable than she really is (occasionally, when I throw on the things you gave/found for me). Thank you for big-sistering me so well. Love you!

Irene Sun said...

Wini - YOU are so cute. =)

Yeeling - We are all in need of God's grace. I think those of us who enjoy creating things and putting colors and patterns together struggle because we knowingly and unknowingly come to love our creations too much. We grow to love our art so much that we forget to our Audience of One.

Shin - you ARE very cool and very fashionable. Style is not something I can give to you. =) hahahaha... But I do find a lot of joy in dressing my sisters.