“… And I want women (and men too) to be modest in appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes For women (and men too) who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do…” 1 Timothy 2:9-10 NLT version.
Now this is a truly controversial subject that has brought a lot of division in the church today. The clothing of biblical time is out rightly different from what we have now. And so if you say to dress godly is to dress like the people in the bible then you miss the point. Imagine that you are seated in church one day and I show up with a loose woolen, robe-like cloak or mantle fastened by a grid with tunic coat on it and a long piece of leather or haircloth with holes for arms and head beneath the mantle. Will you allow me to preach? I will cause disorder of the century. The bible was written in different times within different context, amongst different people of diverse culture and so we can’t make the error of throwing away our culture and dressing habits to adopt the old Jewish culture.
God who made us and gave us this culture loves us like this. The old testament prohibits some aspects of dressing, like cross-dressing that is, a man wearing a woman’s clothes (Deut 22:5) In fact there were prohibitions on clothes made of a particular material (Deut 22:5). I don’t know why this prohibition came, maybe to prevent bad sexual behavior or may be to differentiate between worshippers of Yahweh and other pagan gods. Some people take it to mean today that women can’t wear pants or trousers or other clothes meant for men. Some material today are a taboo as well. Or maybe the material thing was to make sure prostitutes don’t sew long robes with a transparent material and argue that their dress is long enough.
Another controversial area is the aspect of women covering their hair. Many are fast to quote 1 Corr 11:5-6, the King James version says “ But every woman that prayeth and prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head; for that are even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven let her be covered” Now let’s take a closer look at this scripture. In Corinth at the time, it was a disgrace for a woman to shave her hair. Paul starts this chapter by telling the church to remember him and keep the ordinances of Christianity, the first ordinance in verse 3 is that the Head of every man is Christ and the head of every woman is a man and the head of Christ is God. Then he says no man should cover his head when worshiping because his head is Christ and Christ is pure, no need to cover purity.
Then to the woman, he says in verse 5 and 6 above she can’t worship God without a covering on her head. Remember Christ brought equality in the church amongst men and women unlike in the old testament where women were not allowed to lead prayers in the synagogue. But the women of Corinth abused the privilege, they will disrespect their husbands and come to prophesy in the church. Paul said let them be shorn and it’s a disgrace comparable to that of a woman who has shaved. And he knew that these people may mistake this covering for physical covering and that’s why in verse 15 of the same chapter he said a woman’s hair is sufficient physical covering.
In another scripture, he gives the equivalence for a man saying a man who can’t keep his home is worst than an infidel (1 Tim 5:8) and should not prophesy as well. So please this scripture has nothing to do with wearing veils and that’s why in that 1 Corr 11:16 he said if any man seems to be contentious (of dress codes) let it be known that the church of God has no such customs (as describing what to or what not to wear) Well one thing is certain, the new covenant or testament initiated by Jesus overrules and liberates us Christians today from such strict ancient observances of old which sometimes required death as punishment. “ So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus, and because you belong to him, the power of life-giving spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” Rom 8;1-2.
If by the leading of the holy spirit your pastor decides to put restraints on dressing to help him maintain discipline over his congregation then fine. He is your pastor and you should obey. But don’t judge others by it or attempt to make it a divine instruction from God. Also if you aren’t part of that congregation you have no business criticizing their doctrine unless it goes against biblical principles. When it comes to dressing shepherds have a discretion over their sheep and the Lord will hold them responsible if they fail.
Going by our scripture from 1 Tim 2:9-10 above godly dressing is not wearing long skirts with big trousers and fat blouses or shirts. It’s not tying your hair so hard that the veins on your head pop out, a godly dressing is not wearing a big veil to cover your entire face. It’s not holding a heavy bible and wearing tennis on “Kaba” without earrings and uncombed hair. NO! to be godly in dressing does not mean to be shabby or dirty, in fact, cleanliness they say is godliness. Godly dressing doesn’t mean wearing one same “ashwabi” every day to church and refusing to patch that unpressed dilapidated suit with the excuse that God looks at the heart. Please tidy up and stop embarrassing God.
In the same light this doesn’t mean you should spend all your time trying to look good and forget that truly a good looking heart is way better in the eyes of God, this doesn’t mean you should dress half naked, expose all your boobs, belly and buttocks in the name of fashion, draw unending longitudinal lines on your face with shades of different colors (not that I have anything against makeup). Please grow up, pull up your damn pants nobody is interested in seeing your underwears. It doesn’t mean tying a big headscarf and blocking the view of others, wearing anything that by accident or intent causes distraction of any form in the church.
NO! Godly dressing simply means modest in appearance, wearing decent and appropriate clothes. Don’t pretend you do not know the meaning of decent and appropriate, or how to look modest. I mean if na really God you dey serve, is a little modesty in your dressing too much to ask? Notice the bible doesn’t say anything about feeling comfortable in what you wear. My most comfortable dressing is nude, yes I feel so free when I’m naked, going by the comfort I should probably come to church naked right? Sometimes to serve God and be blessed we need to forego a little comfort and sacrifice, just because of you comfortable in your bra doesn’t mean you should wear it to church. I mean can you wear it to work? Or na church correct for cause disorder? That said it’s way more profitable to preach the gospel to the lost souls. A good heart and good works please God more that Gucci and Rolex. Help people find Jesus when they do, and when the holy spirit comes upon them, you wouldn’t have to tell them to dress properly. They become more aware and conscious as they grow in spirit and in faith. Every time you focus on a man’s errors when giving them counsel rather than first commending their effort, recognizing their potential, they are bound to build up resistance. May the Lord give us more wisdom and understanding in Jesus name! #HundredPercentJesus
Brother Cham Formoukom