We were at a church that encouraged everyone to “come as you are.” Wear what you’d like, be who you are, and come and see what God is doing. We’d come from a church that hadn’t been quite as relaxed, with stricter expectations when it came to Sunday morning and how people were supposed to act and what they were supposed to wear, so it was a refreshing change for us, being part of a church where appearances were tossed aside for authenticity. Wes took off his tie and rolled up his sleeves when he went into the pulpit, thankful that this church wasn’t distracted by secondary things. They didn’t care about clothes. Praise God! They were there for the Gospel, for Jesus!
And there was a group in the church that prided themselves on this. They let their children dress however they wanted to for church, just like they themselves did, which was good and right. God doesn’t look at the outward appearance but at the heart, after all. They were passionate about throwing off the shackles of dressing up for church and being authentic, being real, and being a church for anyone.
They were happy. We were happy. Everyone was happy.
Until the day Wes wore a tie to church. Gasp! He wasn’t doing it because anyone was demanding it or expecting it. He was wearing a tie because he felt like wearing a tie. Come as you are, be who you are… right? And Wes likes wearing a tie every now and then.
Wes walked into church that Sunday with that tie on, and one of the deacons who was passionate about our relaxed church culture saw him and immediately frowned. Frowned so much until it became a scowl, until he eventually began muttering words about how we weren’t going to become one of those churches. The weeks that Wes was casual, things were okay. The weeks that Wes wore a tie (or horror of horrors, a bow tie), it was like this deacon’s spirit was quivering in rage. I’ve seen some scary, demonic stuff going on in churches as a pastor’s wife, but let me tell you – I’ve never seen Satan sift someone like I saw him sift this guy. And over a TIE! The very thing he was passionate about — that God didn’t care about what you looked like on the outside — became the critical standard by which he judged others. If God didn’t care what we looked like and our church encouraged everyone to dress as they pleased and come as they were, then why was it offensive for Wes to wear a tie? Because, whether he would ever admit it or not, that deacon was guilty of the very same sin of superficial judgment that he so despised in others. His idol was appearances, just like those who he was so critical of, only his preference was different than theirs. He couldn’t rightly help them with the speck of being adamant that everyone dress up because he couldn’t see past the log of being adamant that everyone dress casually!
As we were dealing with this, I always wondered… what sin am I blind to in my own life? What is it that I can so easily see as sin in others that I can’t recognize in myself? What am I missing when I search my heart and proclaim myself all good? Because there’s something. There’s always something. I’ve sinned twenty different ways before my feet even hit the floor every morning because my heart is evil and my mind is its ready and willing companion. There is no good in me apart from Christ, who won my justification on the cross but still battles my flesh through His Spirit every day, waging a war for my sanctification. Without Him and His active work in my life, I’m more messed up than you and all of your crazy relatives combined. The older I get, the more of my spiritual walk is spent examining my heart and my motives because I’ve seen things. (Said in my skeered pastor’s wife voice. “I’ve seeeeennnn things.”) It’s a short step from a speck in my eye to a whole plank, from one sin to a myriad of treasured transgressions, from a hurtful offense to a prison of bitterness, from being on my knees before Christ to turning my back on Him. “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it” is the sorry anthem of my heart, and I’m so thankful for the grace that reminds me of my fallen state, even as I beseech Christ to take me down before I forget it. And with this I know that it’s the very things that I’m most passionate about – living for Him, being His entirely, serving Him — that can most easily be twisted, leading me into sin. How delightedly did Satan celebrate to see our deacon friend fall into the very sin that he so despised in others? And that one sin caused so much bitterness that the gentle prodding of the Lord went unheeded and… it’s so easy to fall into it.
We have to be vigilant, friends. We need to check our hearts, to remember who we are, and to trust Christ, not just for our eternity, but for every single day and every single circumstance and every single moment…