A new outfit

Let’s talk about what we wear.

Oh, I don’t mean what you wear to church or your sense of fashion. When it comes to what to wear to worship, I like to state the obvious: Just wear clothes, please.

I use Colossians 3 for most weddings I officiate. On a day that people have given a lot of attention to (and paid a lot of money for) their clothes, that text speaks for itself. Listen to what I tell the almost-newlywed couple: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

In a marriage, in life how you “clothe yourselves” matters.

We even see this all the way back in Genesis.

When Adam and Eve knew their nakedness, they fashioned fig-leaf garments for themselves. Their first response was to cover their shame. They received their second set of clothes not too long after that. This time, God did the design work.

Right before they were to leave the garden, the text says that “God made garments of skin for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.”

That single verse has sparked a great discussion for thousands of years. Some of the most basic questions asked are, Why did God make new clothes for them? What difference did the skins make? What do the clothes symbolize for us?

Perhaps there is a reminder that our sin impacts the world. When the Lord clothed the first couple, an animal died for their skin. How easy it is to convince ourselves that “my sin is between me and God.” If that were true, our sin choices wouldn’t affect other people. So often, though, they do.

In Christian theology, we talk about Christ giving his life for our salvation. So, that’s an easy parallel for us to make when it comes to the sacrifice needed for the new skins.

But what if skins had less to do with an animal and more to do with light? Or not light? The Hebrew word for light and the word for skin sound identical. This could be, then, a play on words. As such, the thought goes that the couple’s nakedness was their original clothing. God had already clothed them in light. That is purity and holiness.

After their disobedience, God clothed them again. This outfit, though, was mere skin. Skin replaced light.

What’s also noteworthy is God’s care for the couple. God banished them from the garden. But they would still go in God’s care. Even before they left, God outfitted them with protective clothes.

When we, as Colossians puts it, put on love, maybe we recall our first outfit. Living in love with God is how we recognize our need for God and God’s care. We recognize all the other outfits we like to use to cover our shame and guilt. We’d like to think we can hide from God and each other. When we finally recognize we do not have to hide, we thank God that despite our sin God cares for us.

And, wearing love, we seek to show the world our desire to live in peace with God and with others.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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