Words of Worth

What NOT to Wear

May 25, 2012

My clothes closet was dedicated space for a uniform for the first 12 years of my formal schooling. A jumper, blouse, sweater for cooler days, saddle shoes, and knee socks were the only articles of clothing I wore for 180 days a year. Adhering to the school uniform dress code was serious business.

At the beginning of every school year, a letter was sent to students’ homes detailing “what not to wear” to school and what constituted a violation of policy that could result in demerits. In my high school years at Bishop Conwell, Mother Superior would follow up the letter with daily reminders over the public address system saying, “Girls will be girls, but Conwell girls will be ladies!” In her opinion part of being a lady meant that we would dress according to code, we would polish our shoes, and keep our knee socks hiked up even if it meant wearing a rubber band around the top of them to keep them in place.

The school uniform served many purposes but chief among them was to identify the Conwell girls as members of Bishop Conwell High School. Everyone in town knew the Bishop Conwell girls were the ones with the charcoal gray jumper and navy and white saddle shoes. Donning the uniform not only made us stand out, but it also influenced our behavior. Most Conwellites (and I know you’re out there) would never use bad language or commit “public sins” while in the uniform! How in keeping with 2 Corinthians 6:3 we were, “… giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited….”

Just as my school sent out a dress code letter at the beginning of each school year that included “what not to wear”, the apostle Paul sent a letter to the Colossians with a detailed list of what the new man in Christ should no longer wear:

“5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.”
Colossians 3:5-7

The word “therefore” points back to the first four verses of Colossians 3 which reference the new man’s identification with the risen Christ. We need to put to death the things in our lives that are contrary to our identity with Jesus: fornication, uncleanness, passion and evil desire (sexual sins) and greed. These sins are part of the way the world lives, not the way Jesus lives. Jesus would not walk in any of these sins, so if we identify with Him, we will not walk in them either.

Interestingly the next list of sins Paul challenges us to put off are primarily committed by what we say and are probably more commonplace in our lives, and perhaps even more tolerated than the first list. However, we are still told not to wear these:

“8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices…”
Colossians 3:8-9

Mother Superior and the Apostle Paul were clear as to what NOT to wear.  Our wardrobe is a fashion statement, and when we wear our clothes well, we reflect well on the designer.  Our spiritual wardrobe is a fashion statement also, and when we wear our clothes well, we reflect well on our Designer and on our status in the body of Christ. (sv)

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