Charles J. Aebi
Dear Aebi: “Are shorts appropriate attire in worship?”
Please do not get upset with me for being frank or blunt with this, but the answer to this question is, in a word, “No.” Why? First, it is because shorts, like low-cut blouses, frequently show more skin than is conducive to morally pure thinking. That can be a problem with dress at places other than worship, too. Our 21st century culture encourages dress that is immodest in many situations, including beaches and even shopping trips. Secondly, some will say I am too old-fashioned on this, but I believe we can be so casual in our clothing that we show a lack of respect in worship and other situations (like weddings and funerals) as well. Let us try to dress so as to be seen and known as true Christians – as Christ’s representatives.
Look carefully at 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. Paul here is saying that we need to wear clothing that will lead those who see us in public to think that we are morally good as Christ’s people. In 1st century Corinth, that meant a Christian woman needed to wear a veil or head covering to worship as well as in other public situations. I do not know what the veil or covering looked like then, but wearing it in that culture was necessary, since failure to wear it labeled a woman as immoral. It may have been more like the garment worn by some Muslim women today than like hats women wore a few decades ago (and some still do). The point is that it was necessary to wear it to create the right impression: that they were Christians. The same principle is true now: we need to wear such clothing as will indicate to people that we are Christians and live the pure lives that Christians are supposed to live. The head covering for women does not have that same significance in American society today, though, for the most part, men wearing hats in worship and some other inside situations labels them as crude or lacking in respect. I think most adults would say that shorts in worship on either men or women, even if they are not short shorts, show a lack of respect or reverence. Some say our young people will not wear clothing that shows respect. If that is the case, it is a sorry commentary on the kind of training they have had in their homes. Indeed, it may be because their parents have set a loose example for them.
Clothing (for both men and women) is only one way in which we should influence people for Christ. Our speech—both the words and the tone of voice we use — should reflect a Christian attitude, as should our actions. For example, we should not express road rage by “laying on the horn” when someone holds us up for a few seconds until he can make a left turn. We need to be kind and gentle as well as pure and good, for we are Christ’s representatives on earth. We do not want to lead anyone to have less respect for Christ or for His church or for us as members of His church, because of the way we act or speak or because of the clothing we wear. –2660 Layman Rd., Vincent OH 45784. firstname.lastname@example.org
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