During a lecture once in seminary, my professor paused, set aside his notes and then said something that I will never forget. He said, “You know…we’re a lot more like the Corinthians than we’d care to admit.“ His statement was sad…and true.
Missionary work in foreign lands is hard work. One of the difficult problems that missionaries experience when they move into a new area is that it’s nearly impossible to earn the people’s trust and respect. Many of those missionaries labor numerous years before they can get a legitimate opportunity to share the gospel in a way that the people will receive without hesitation. And it’s a sad commentary when American, “short-term” missionaries ruin months of Christ-honoring work…just by the way they dress.
Someone recently told me about a missionary who was forced to inform one of the churches that financially supported him that they were no longer allowed to send “short-term” missionaries into his city. The reason had to do with the manner in which so many of the younger-aged missionaries dressed.
The missionary said that the young people were dressed so provocatively that it ruined his work with the people he was trying to reach with the gospel. The non-Christians in that area were astounded by how little fabric was actually worn by the young American men and women. The locals felt the Christian’s attire to be scandalous…not holy. Ultimately, the missionary’s gospel-work was being ruined because his western visitors were more like the Corinthians than they were willing to admit.
When Adam and Eve sinned against the LORD in Genesis chapter three, one of the things God did to demonstrate His grace was to cover them with clothing. “Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). The reason God gave them clothing was to cover the shame of their nakedness. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened , and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings…So he [Adam] said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself”” (Genesis 3:7, 10).
You see, Adam and Eve made themselves clothing out of fig leaves because they were ashamed of their sin and nakedness. God then later made them clothes from animal skin to further cover the shame of their nakedness. Clothes weren’t (and aren’t) to be a fashion statement, necessarily. They’re actually to be a reminder of our sin, shame, and nakedness.
We’re a lot more like the Corinthians than we want to admit. In today’s Christian culture, many churchgoers aren’t all that interested in covering their shame and nakedness. In fact, many seem to take pleasure in flaunting it! Sadly, this is precisely what the unsaved world is doing. There isn’t much difference in the physical attire of those inside the church compared to those outside the church.
Why is that?
This isn’t always the case…but I think it is becoming more common than we’re willing to admit. If you don’t believe me, take a closer look at your church’s Jr. high, high school, and college groups next Sunday. You just might be shocked.
Look…I’m not trying to be a prude or anything like that (well, maybe I am just a little). It’s just that I want God’s children to be an example of holiness, good works, and portray a godly testimony to those outside the kingdom. And a good indication that we need to seriously check ourselves is when a foreign missionary needs to tell American “Christians” that they’re not welcome back next year.
Yes. That’s a serious problem.
Fig leaves were pieced together by Adam and Eve to cover their shame. A few thousand years later, however, it seems many American churchgoers want designer fig leaves made by the latest designer or label. Or at least fig leaves that show a bit more skin.
What do you think about that? Better yet, what do you think God thinks about it?