You may think this is a blog about modesty. It’s not. As humans, we wear a lot more than just physical clothing. We wear spiritual ones, too. In fact, the Bible uses the metaphor of putting on clothing quite a lot to paint a vivid picture for us. We are to clothe ourselves with humility and patience (1 Peter 5:5, Col. 3:12), adorn ourselves with strength and dignity (Prov. 31:25), put on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:11), and gird ourselves with truth and strength (Eph. 6:14, Ps. 18:39) just to name a few. Every single day, just as we pick out what shirt we’re going to wear, we need to be picking out our spiritual attire as well. To assume we’ll just wake up and walk out the door with the virtues the Bible lists for us to wear is as foolish as thinking we’re publicly presentable without having gotten dressed.
As functioning members of society, no one would imagine leaving the house undressed. But if we don’t wake up intentionally choosing our spiritual robes, then we might just be writing ourselves into a modern version of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Paul takes this even further when he says in 2 Corinthians 5 that we in our physical bodies long to be “clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.” But until the day when we receive our perfect heavenly bodies and “what is mortal may be swallowed up by life,” we have these physical ones which daily display our spiritual selves. So that means we have a choice to make.
Our choice about what spiritual robes we wear has to be intentional. If it’s not, by default, we will go with what is comfortable and familiar, for we are creatures of comfort and we stay with what we know, even if what we know is destroying us. Just look at the Israelites. They were a people in bondage to the cruelty of the Egyptians for 400 years and yet, after being rescued by the Lord, they repeatedly expressed a desire to return. They were scared. They were hungry. They were tired (Ex. 16:3, 14:12; Num. 14:4). We act a lot like the Israelites but most of us don’t realize it. We let anger cloud our judgment and pride rule our actions. We don’t like to consider another person’s perspective or the ways we could be wrong. Some of us have become so good at our sin that it would be foreign for us to think or act without it. It has become the shirt we wear, worn and comfortable. And it is this that leaves us in bondage, choosing the invisible chains of a sinful mentality, for we would rather follow familiarity than be free. We would rather wear rags.
If you’re wondering what these spiritual robes or rags are exactly, Colossians 3 is a great chapter to read. In it, Paul tells the church at Colosse the things they are to “put to death,” or what robes they are not to wear, in our case. Things like anger, rage, malice, and slander. When we read a list like this, it seems pretty easy to say, “Of course, I would never clothe myself in things like that.” But if we don’t intentionally set those aside as options for us as Christ followers, they can comfortably wrap themselves around us easier than we’d like to think. We might have a way of dealing with a situation or a person that we’ve never really brought before the Lord. We might hold a viewpoint or believe in a platform that we’ve never allowed the Lord to speak into. And so, we treat situations and people, and hold beliefs and convictions, with anger or rage or malice without even realizing it. If we don’t examine our hearts, we may be wearing filthy rags and not be aware of it because they fit us so well.
Thankfully, Paul’s letter doesn’t end on that note. When God tells us what to take off, He follows it up with what to put on, offering us a much better outfit. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (vs. 12). That’s a good list to check yourself against. Is my action or reaction showing compassion and kindness? Is the stance I’m taking on this issue one of humility and characterized by gentleness and patience? For when these are the questions we are asking ourselves, we will be more inclined to recognize when our robes are getting a bit dirty and, more importantly, we will desire to wear the outfit of Christ: “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (vs. 14).
Most of us care (at least a little bit) about what we look like. Yet what might we truly look like if we spent as much time dressing our spiritual selves as our physical ones? Let the daily task of picking out your shirt in the morning be a reminder to you that while you clothe your outer body, as a believer in Jesus Christ you are also to wrap yourselves in the virtues of God, who Himself is described in Revelation as being “dressed in a robe dipped in blood” (19:13). For it’s only when we wear robes that have been washed in the blood of the lamb that we are truly clean (7:14).