Recently a couple that has only occasionally visited our church came, accompanied by their daughter. I found after the service that another member of our church had apparently found something for the daughter to cover her legs with and insisted that she was wearing something inappropriate. Apparently the same was done (covering found) for a young member of our congregation as well. The girls were wearing shorts, which one person found to be ‘too’ short. I was appalled. I cannot imagine that this behavior and words would ever come from our savior’s mouth. He accepted everyone where they were in their station and walk with him.
Various reasons have been given for this kind of expectation of ‘modest’ dress in church. I have heard the argument that men are tempted by such exposure; and I have heard that we enter the King’s presence and should therefore dress appropriately. I have heard that we women should cover our heads, not wear our hair short.
I cannot agree with any of these. Or perhaps it is simply that I believe more strongly in welcoming all much more than ensuring we follow set human expectations.
I see Christ’s mission as that of reconciliation of the Father with us and indeed I cannot find a single verse in which Jesus turned someone away. Oh yes, on many occasions, given the challenge of following Him, people walked away; but he never turned anyone away.
A church, the church, has a mission of making disciples. By nature, a disciple is one who will learn under another and in turn teach others. Churches take on personalities and disciples seek to find a place where they are most comfortable – but make no mistake, God does not call us to be comfortable. The personality of a church simply allows us each of us to freely worship our Lord and King in a way that most closely reflects our own needs and desires to be with him. And as disciples, we join together in this broken imperfect group called church. As members of this greater body of Christ, we are called, as in Ephesians 4
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
We are tasked with being humble, gentle, patient, and bearing one another in love, putting forth effort to keep unity of the Spirit through bonds of peace. The challenge here is much the same as that which we regularly face in society – where is the line at which my own personal expressions and liberties are infringed upon by others and where is that for me in return. Do I turn the other cheek and permit this one person to put me into a box in my expression of self by wearing shorts? I think the way I word the question tells you that it doesn’t sit well with me.
The unity that we strive for, work for, make efforts toward, does not lead to uniformity. God’s creation doesn’t give the least impression that we are to be uniform in anything. In unity, we will all be different. Our unity is made complete only through the Spirit. The Spirit who convicts us, cleanses us, changes us, heals us, challenges us, is the one who can open our eyes to others, revealing to us the needs and hurts of others, leading us to personal and congregational life. Life is messy, we struggle and fight a lot of it, but in the peace given us, we can also turn these petty issues into a cause of unity.
I’m not sure how He will succeed in this case to bring us closer to His perfect unity and peace, but He will. Our imperfect, broken, stubborn ideals will yield to His ultimate purposes. I, for one, have taken the opportunity to question myself on why shorts are or are not acceptable in church. I have regarded the reasons given above and find that my position stands; so I think I will continue to wear shorts in church. Will you at least consider it?