“You look like you’re ready to lead worship”, said my husband as I stood before him in leggings and a long sweater.
“Mom, do you think I could choose a wife on the basis of the swimsuit she wears?” asked my son, in all seriousness.
“All ordained clergy are invited to join in the procession … [and] should wear attire appropriate to their tradition.” – a footnote on the invitation we received to an ordination service.
What do the above accounts have in common? They all show that we attribute meaning to what people wear. I’m not going to speculate, in this space, what women are saying by what they wear on the platform or at the pool. On the other hand, a clergyman’s robe and stole absolutely identify him with a certain tradition. His statement is obvious.
God understands more than we do that the thing we put on identifies us with a tradition, a culture, a belief. God, right from the beginning, used the garment motif to communicate redemption. He did not accept the green, leafy clothes Adam and Eve made to cover their nakedness. These clothes offended God and said to Him: “We did exactly what You told us not to do and now we’re trying to cover up and to hide our sin against You. We are full of shame. Our new clothes should make us feel better about ourselves and keep the truth from You.” But God saw through their flimsy leaves, right into their souls. Their workmanship did not cover their sin, nor their guilt, nor their shame.
Don’t we still try to cover ourselves in our own workmanship? Don’t we think of ourselves as basically lovable, good and deserving of God’s good will? Do we believe we can make our own plan and “get to God” on our own?
She was barely three years old. Perching on the curb, I told her to take my hand to cross. “I don’t want to hold your hand”, she stated. “Very well. If not my hand, you must at least hold someone’s hand to cross this street”, I insisted. She pondered for hardly an instant. Then she clasped her left hand in her right hand, held them out in front of her and announced: “I will hold my own hand.” And so doing, she marched across the street alone. Fortunately, she arrived safely on the other side. However, we will not arrive safely on the other side of death, nor be welcomed to eternity in God’s kingdom if our view has been: “I’ll do it myself. I have a plan.”
God’s gospel work began in Genesis 3:21 when He Himself covered the rebels with garments of His own making, having rejected their efforts. And then, Christ * shed His blood as our cover. So those who bow before Him, denying their own goodness in order to receive Christ’s covering, will be robed in His righteousness. If we aren’t wearing this, we aren’t wearing anything.
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” Isaiah 61:10
Will God recognize the robe you’re wearing as you stand before Him on that final day? Or will you appear before Him in garments of your own making, flimsy wisps of nothingness? Will the Righteous Judge look at you or me and say what the truth-speaking child cried out when their Emperor marched past the crowd in his new clothes: “But he doesn’t have anything on!”
A well-known theologian puts it like this: The question is not “Do you know Jesus?”, but rather, “Does He know you?” Are you clothing yourself with garments made from your own pattern? A custom-fit life of your own invention? If so, He won’t recognize you as His. He only receives those who are wearing His perfect robe of righteousness thrown over them solely and explicitly because of what Christ has done! God will recognize me because, no question, He knows that robe! Hallelujah!
There is a song I love about this robe:
I am covered over with the robe of righteousness that Jesus gives to me, gives to me,
I am covered over with the precious blood of Jesus and He lives in me, lives in me.
What a joy it is to know my heavenly Father loves me so,
He gives to me, my Jesus.
When He looks at me He sees not what I used to be, but He sees — Jesus.
Does Jesus know you? What clothes do you trust in to cover you, to identify you as God’s child? What are you wearing?
*link to Statement of Christology in Portuguese