In September of 2009 the prime minister of Bangladesh banned male government employees from wearing suits and ties in order to save energy. How ungodly a decision! Seriously now, it shouldn’t matter that Bangladesh is suffering through a debilitating energy shortage and that banning the extra clothing will help to lessen the use of air conditioning and thereby preserve precious power supplies. What can we expect next? We’re already seeing the corruption of many churches as they abandon their Biblical dress code. Shouldn’t the bottom line be that God has ordained coats and ties as the only acceptable dress for truly moral and spiritual men?
I do jest, but the fact that suits and ties have been the standard dress code in many tropical nations speaks volumes. The history of this practice can be traced back to a time when unity was established by uniformity. The challenges of maintaining cohesiveness within the massive expanse of the British Empire meant the imposition of European practices and customs upon indigenous peoples. Added to the mix were the realities that natives usually wore little clothing and that Christian missionaries were known to clumsily confuse cultural standards with godly living.
From a Biblical perspective, modesty of dress is obviously important, but amazingly I can’t seem to find a single reference to neckties in the Scriptures (Judas went out and hung himself?). How bizarre it must have been for Christian converts in hot, humid environments to wear such stifling clothing in the name of Jesus! And, of course, throughout history innumerable Christian men have been forced to suffer under a similar evil (even the name neck–tie sounds oppressive).
The ease of necktie restrictions in church has been only a relatively recent trend. For my part, the change is most welcome. One of my great fears in life was to have to wear a suit and tie every day. It’s quite possible that I spent so many years in college ministry simply to avoid the dress code of a typical pastor!
As much as I believe in the importance and power of oneness, a line must be drawn between unity and uniformity. People come in all kinds of shapes and sizes these days, and with a variety of tastes. One of the benefits of having multiple churches and campus fellowships in each community is that we can reach a broader range of people.
I prefer to think of us all as ice cream—we’re just different flavors. No one flavor is necessarily the best, but they are better to different people with different tastes and personalities. Not everybody likes Moose Tracks—although I can’t quite understand why.
Unity in the body of Christ is about harmony, not uniformity. Uniformity leads to moldy religion. Everybody is forced into a mold, compelled to live a cookie cutter existence—all at the expense of God-created diversity.
Uniformity is often the product of unhealthy leadership and/or doctrine. A charismatic, gifted or powerful leader(s) is placed on a pedestal and his/her followers are compelled to conform to that particular style of success. It all reeks of a man-centered, legalistic style of existence.
The Gospel is a call to freedom—freedom from legalism, freedom from the dominion of human oppression, and quite possibly, freedom from the oppressive world of the necktie!