Adornment of Grace (Chapter 3 Verses 1-7)
This Christian lady’s beauty, if she follows the Lord’s directive here, will have a beauty that flows out of a heart that is ultimately in love with Jesus (vv3-4). It comes from within. Now the world thinks the opposite, beauty is outward, a good hairdo, plenty of make-up, the best of the Paris fashions. Now I don’t think in its place, and with moderation, as a person can afford, that a measure of fashion-consciousness is necessarily wrong, I don’t think this is a censure on these things, that would be I think legalism. There are those doubtless who would have us all, male and female, like sixteenth century Puritans. It is God’s standards of course and not the culture of the day, that dictates how we dress. No, what Peter is saying is, there is another kind of beauty, there is something that emanates from a heart filled with the Holy Spirit, and God’s grace. There is a loveliness that radiates from a heart given to God, that no amount of adorning can achieve. Put bluntly, you can be all dolled up, but have anything but a quiet spirit, a raging temper, throwing tantrums because you don’t get you own Christian way, well that’s useless. But of course this applies to men as well. Our dress should reflect the age we live in, we should dress well, as best we can, shouldn’t we? For the Lord, all that we do is to be done for the Lord after all.
What about dress and Church attendance? We wear our evangelical uniforms, don’t we? The men with their black suits and ties, and especially if you are a Church officer. What if the minister were to dress casually? Is that a great crime? Against Reformed tradition it is. But that is changing fast, these mores are being challenged increasingly. In the modern culture in which we live a lot of casual clothes are the norm now in many places where they didn’t use to be. In the place of work and of course applies to the Church as well. God is not concerned with the outward adorning, it is our hearts he wants is the argument put forward. He wants our love and trust, this is true. Much better you are in Church on Sunday with love and trust for Jesus in your heart, than in a suit, collar and tie, in a state of rebellion and anarchy against God. And the same applies to the ladies, the same principle applies. There is a strong case for less formality, more relaxed forms of dress in our Churches. It is our spirituality that matters, that’s what will win this unsaved husband (vv1 & 4), and is of great worth in God’s sight (v4b). I believe if we are beautiful to God on the inside, that will naturally, be reflected in the way we dress, anywhere. John G Paton, the missionary to the New Hebrides tells us that before he went out there to work, he ministered in Glasgow, in Scotland. It was a very poor district, drunkenness and wife-beating. People starting coming to the meetings, getting saved. He noticed changes in people, the young women began to appear clean, pressed dresses. The men clean with pressed trousers and shirts. Nobody told them they had to do these things, it was the effect of grace working in their hearts. They wanted to look well for the Lord. Does maybe our casual dress say something about our attitude towards God? I only ask.
(© James R Hamilton, written May, 1998)