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Dressing for the Glory of God
Is the way you dress an index of your character? Read this: “The dress and its arrangement upon the person is generally found to be the index of the man or the woman.”1
Well, then, don’t you have a pretty sure-fire way to judge the character of everyone you meet? Hold on! Just because you know that your outward appearance is an index of your character, you have no right to judge others by what they wear! Jesus says, “Judge not.”2 We can never know how the gentle Shepherd is leading someone else. What He asks of you may be more than He has taught me so far. We have not been called to be the conscience for anyone else. The same God who is leading you can lead your friends, as well.
“There are many who try to correct the life of others by attacking what they consider are wrong habits. They go to those whom they think are in error, and point out their defects. They say, ‘You don’t dress as you should.’ They try to pick off the ornaments, or whatever seems offensive, but they do not seek to fasten the mind to the truth. Those who seek to correct others should present the attractions of Jesus. They should talk of His love and compassion, present His example and sacrifice, reveal His Spirit, and they need not touch the subject of dress at all. There is no need to make the dress question the main point of your religion. There is something richer to speak of. Talk of Christ, and when the heart is converted, everything that is out of harmony with the Word of God will drop off.”3 Judge not!
We cannot afford to judge people by what they wear. Where did Jesus look when He feasted with the harlots and publicans? Certainly not on external appearance! We need to learn to focus on hearts, just as Jesus did. He saw their needs and their longings, and ministered to their hurts with a tender, genuine love. He saw possible citizens for God’s kingdom everywhere, and looked beyond the outside, to minister to their hearts.4
As Christians, we must not judge others by their outward appearance. At the same time, we have a responsibility to show Christ to others by the way we dress. This is the paradox of the Christian lifestyle: We dare not judge others by the way they look, yet we dare not become a stumbling block to others by our own appearance. Though others cannot read our hearts, they can read our clothes, our hairstyle, and our makeup. Our outward appearance makes a powerful statement for Christ. If we say we are Christians, then people have a right to see Christ’s modesty and simplicity reflected in us. And this includes our appearance. We must not give a confusing picture.
To sum it up, we do not have the right to judge others by their appearance, but others have the right to expect to see Christ reflected in our behavior and appearance. This is the way the Christian life works.
1. Ellen White, Child Guidance, page 413. 2. Matthew 7:1. 3. White, Evangelism, page 272. Compare Child Guidance, page 429: “Talk of the love and humility of Jesus, but do not encourage the brethren and sisters to engage in picking flaws in the dress or appearance of one another. Some take delight in this work; and when their minds are turned in this direction, they begin to feel that they must become church tinkers. They climb upon the judgment seat, and as soon as they see one of their brethren or sisters, they look to find something to criticize. This is one of the most effectual means of becoming narrow-minded and dwarfing spiritual growth. God would have them step down from the judgment seat, for He has never placed them there.” 4. Matthew 21:31, 32.
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