I don’t wear ties (or suits) to church services, or really ever at all, except for weddings and funerals. I’ll even forego them for job interviews if I am sure it’s not vital to the position. I try to avoid jobs where I need to wear a tie all the time, as it would drive me to distraction. A good friend of mine, who is an ordained Presbyterian minister once asked ‘how does tying a knot around your neck make you look respectable?’ I think he was being rhetorical. I have never understood that myself. My father, who was a working-class man, joined the local golf club and played the game out of enjoyment. Once he got into that den of middle-class pretension, he underwent a few changes. The club discussed relaxing the rule of ‘collar-and-tie-only’ for the clubhouse, and he was dead against any change, saying ‘we don’t want to let any yobs join!’, to which I replied, ‘Dad, a yob with a tie is still a yob!’
And so I find the same attitude in churches, where believers think that you have to look respectable since you are entering the presence of the Lord. There is a whole debate about where the presence or the spirit of God resides: He is anywhere that ‘two or three gather in [His] name’ (Matt.18:20), so if I even meet up with a friend for coffee and discuss spiritual matters i.e. have ‘fellowship’ with them, should I not put on a tie? If someone attempts to argue that a church service is different… there’s no argument, sorry. It can never be different. ANY fellowship of believers is the same thing, regardless of the location. A church building, or meeting house, is no holier or more sacred than anywhere else. He resides in our hearts (Gal. 4:6; Eph. 3:17), and buildings for the facilitation of fellowship are just that; buildings. Nor is it showing any respect for the Lord’s table – it’s just a table! With plates of bread and cups of wine (or red coloured cordial). A friend of mine once heard an announcement in his church that they were not to go out the back door on Sunday mornings as it ‘showed disrespect for the table’! I would’ve overturned the table on hearing that, just like my Lord Jesus did when he was angry at REAL disrespect (Matt. 21:12). There are martyrs for the gospel, folks, who DIED because they maintained that the fittings of our communion service are symbols and nothing else! Let’s get real here.
Another question I often hear is ‘would you not wear a tie if you were going to see the Queen?’ Well, I make no secret of the fact that I’m no royalist, but let’s say I did go to see her for some reason; maybe I would wear a tie if it’s appropriate, I don’t know. BUT I am always tempted to ask back ‘are you comparing my precious Lord to that sponging Kraut in Buckingham Palace?’ though I know that would be an insulting comment to all Germans, not just her. However, there is NO comparison between anyone and Him; don’t try to make it, He is higher than a million royals or world leaders put together! Especially as, unlike us, our Lord does NOT look at our appearance, but our hearts (1Sam. 16:7; see also 2Cor. 5:12). In fact, we are exhorted NOT to adorn our appearance (1Pet. 3:3-4). We all know that, so stop trying to get around it. So why do so many think it’s important? I’ve always asked myself that, and the only answer I come to is that it’s just tradition (or TRADITIOOOON as in the Fiddler on the Roof song!). Something tells me I’ve said this before, but I cannot find it on previous blogs: there is nothing wrong with tradition, in and of itself; some can be good, and some bad, some neither. So how do we distinguish?
How often have you heard someone say ‘oh, I’d love to go to church with you, but I’ve nothing to wear!’? Too many people think that you have to dress up for it, and there’s the real rub. About 26 years ago, before I married my wife, we were walking back down our church car park to my car, and I heard a voice right behind me saying ‘thank you’. I turned around, obviously looking confused; what had I done? The man who thanked me explained: ‘I decided to visit your church this morning, and went and sat in the balcony, but everybody around me was dressed up, the men in suits and ties, and as I was just in my jeans and T-shirt I felt so uncomfortable. So I was about to leave, when you walked in, in your jeans, and sat opposite me. I felt fine then as I wasn’t the only one, and stayed, and I got a blessing. Thanks!’
As you can tell, I’ve never forgotten that.
Grace be with you.