Monday, February 2, 2009

What is the Source of Our Standards?

A recent magasine article listed several reasons for having a dress code. One of the reasons given was to honor the pastors convictions. This called to mind a visit I made to a church in Texas several years ago. The pastor had only been there a few months, although the church had been there for over 30 years.

The pastor was convinced that it was wrong for anyone to participate in the actual service,( as usher, musician, etc.) who was not wearing a suit and tie. The town he was in was a small farming and ranching community, while he was from a large city. He was really upset that none of the men in the church wore suits and ties to church, although as he admitted they wore neatly pressed Levis and shirts. He had removed several of them from positions of leadership as teachers, ushers, and even the songleader. Needless to say, the church was rebelling.

Being from a some what similar background as the people, I could understand their dilema. In much of the Texas panhandle, even bankers do not wear suits on a regular basis. People wearing suits are viewed as crooks, as they are probably a salesman trying to get them to buy something they don't want or a government bureaucrat trying to dictate how things are to be done who has no experience outside his office. In their view, wearing such fancy clothes is an attempt to decieve others as to ones importance and identifies one as untrustworthy. Their experience has borne this belief out in many cases, and the pastor did not helping himself by his position.

James 2:1-9 deals with this very situation. "My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. "

The pastor, though it was his conviction, was committing sin. He had no authority from God to impose his convictions on the church, and infact his convictions were ungodly. To follow them would cause the church to sin as well. Too often we've been told to follow our convictions, our conscience, or our heart. Titus 1:15 states "Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled." Many times our standards are not from God, but reflect the evil in our own heart, as the pastor who preached that it was wrong for a woman to wear open toed shoes because they were such a sexual turn on to men. Obviously, he was showing his own wickedness, as most guys I know have never indicated such a problem. In Jesus' day most people wore open toed sandals, and neither Jesus nor the apostles condemned them.

Quite simply, the conscience of the leader or pastor is not a sound basis for our standards. Who knows how badly his mind and conscience is defiled. A well known pastor here in our area was caught soliciting homosexual favors, and numerous others around the country have been guilty of other sexual and financial sins. Standards need to be wholly based on the Word of God.

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