Welcome to our Wednesday “Ask Beau” post. The purpose of this weekly feature is to provide you, our readers, with biblical responses to questions you have about practical issues that you face.
As always, you may submit questions for future “Ask Beau” posts by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by leaving a comment on this post.
The increasingly dusty term “Sunday best” is a cultural reminder of at least two things: 1) it was common practice in the past to dress up for church, and 2) this practice is not as common as it used to be.
Many people, particularly in the older generations, feel that dressing up on Sunday is an expression of worship and respect for God. They might feel downright uncomfortable dressing in jeans, for example, on Sunday. Others, particularly in the younger generations, prefer a more casual approach to Sunday attire. They might see casual dress as an expression of authenticity and intimacy in God’s presence.
Which group is right? The answer is “neither” and “both.”
Why “neither?” Try as we might, we will not find a clear biblical mandate (at least not in the New Covenant era) on the way one should dress for worship services. When one group tries to impose its preference in this regard on another group, they run against the teaching of Paul in Romans 14, which deals with the matter of judging others in areas of Christian liberty.
Why “both?” Both groups have legitimate emphases. Those who wish to dress up in honor of the Lord should feel free to do so; after all, we have a God who is worthy of respect and even fear (Isaiah 6:1–5; Revelation 1:12–17). Those who wish to dress casually should feel free to do so; after all, we have a God who calls us friends (John 15:14–15). As a Matt Redman song says so beautifully, there is a friendship and a fear to knowing the Lord, and we should desire both.
Let’s be careful not to adopt a pharisaical attitude toward those whose preference is different from ours. This applies to both sides of this “debate.” Casual dressers are not necessarily sloppy, disrespectful people. Up-dressers are not necessarily concerned with external displays rather than heart attitudes.
What is your practice with regard to dress at church services? Why have you chosen to dress as you have?