There is a lot of truth in the saying that you should never judge a book by the cover, In the same way, there is usually more to people than what you see. However, there are times when you can tell a lot about who people are and what they do by the way they dress.
For example, you can probably tell that a person is a fireman by the way he dressed, and that his job it to put fires out. A person dressed in surgical scrubs is probably a surgeon who operates on people to help them heal. Someone in a sporting uniform will most probably be an athlete who competes in a particular sport. Depending on the sport, what that person is wearing might even tell you the position that person plays in the team or what her role is in the team.
In each of these cases, there will be consistency between what a person wears, who they are and what they do. You wouldn’t want a person dressed like a fireman to do surgery in the operating theatre. A sportsperson dressed like a surgeon probably will not compete to their full ability. And there is no way you would want to fight a fire dressed like a netballer or footballer. What we wear can say a lot about who we are, and what we do.
When Paul encourages the Christians at Rome to be dressed in Christ, he wasn’t giving them fashion advice. Paul was encouraging them, and us, to find a new sense of who we are and what we are on earth to do through faith in Jesus. Through his death and resurrection, he covers our sin, shame and guilt and gives us a new identity as children of God. Through faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit washes us clean of everything that makes us unacceptable to God, to others and possibly even to ourselves and covers us with the goodness and purity of Jesus. When God looks at us, he doesn’t see our flaws, mistakes, failures or regrets. Instead, because we are covered in Christ, he sees us as his children, whom he loves and with whom he is pleased (see Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). In the same way that what they are wearing can tell us who a fireman, surgeon or sportsperson are, so being clothed in Christ tells us that we are God’s children who receive all of Jesus’ goodness as his gift to us through the Holy Spirit.
Just as it makes sense that a fireman, surgeon or sportsperson does will reflect who they are, so the way in which God’s children live our lives needs to be consistent with being dressed with Jesus and who we are in him. It is absurd to think of a fireman in an operating theatre, or a surgeon on a netball court, or a footballer fighting a fire. It makes just as little sense for the children of God to live in ways that are different from who we are as people who are clothed in Christ’s goodness. That is why Paul writes,
‘So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.’ (v12b,13 NIV).
Paul is urging us to be clothed in the goodness of Jesus so our lives show who we are as God’s children.
When we live faithfully as God’s children, we bring the light of God’s goodness into a world that is often very dark. As we begin the season of Advent, in the coming weeks we will be remembering God’s gifts to us of peace, hope, joy and love. People who live in our world, who live right next door to us, or maybe even live under our own roof, often need a greater sense of peace, hope, joy and love in their lives. As we live in ways that are consistent with our new identity as people who are clothed in Christ, we can bring the light of God’s peace, hope, joy and love into their lives through what we say and what we do. By being covered with God’s goodness and living good lives that are consistent with who we are, we are the means by which the peace, hope, joy and love of God enter into the world and bring light into people’s lives. Christianity isn’t about following a set of rules to get into heaven, like a lot of people imagine. Instead, the Christian faith is about finding a new sense of who we are as people who are covered by Christ, and then living in ways that reflect our new identity as God’s children so God’s goodness and love can come into the world through us.
We all put clothes on each day. This week, as you get dressed, remember that God gives you the goodness and love of Jesus to put on each and every day. Jesus covers each of us and gives us a new identity as children of God whom he loves and with whom he is pleased, even before we do anything. In the faith that you are clothed with Jesus with all of his goodness and purity, live each day as God’s child and bring the light of his peace, hope, joy and love into the lives of everyone you meet through all you say and do.
More to think about:
- What are some other examples of how the way a person is dressed can say something about who they are and what they do?
- Do you agree that it is good for there to be a consistent message given by what a person wears, who they are and what they do? Can you explain why you think that way?
- What does it mean to you that you are ‘clothed in Christ’? How can that make a difference to your understanding of who you are as a child of God?
- The beauty of the Christian faith is that being ‘clothed in Christ’ is not about conformity, but finding a sense of identity in Jesus. In what ways can you be ‘clothed in Christ’ without losing a sense of who you are as an individual?
- If it is good for how us to be consistent in how are dressed, who we are and what we do, how might you be able to show that you are ‘clothed in Christ’ this week?