black history, theology, Kids' books

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Awful Clothes, Funny Teammates and The Gospel

I never signed up for Fashion 101. My college teammate decided to enroll me. 

They enrolled me because I own shoes like this.

Growing up, I only really cared about basketball and hip-hop. I was so focused on my two passions that I didn't realize there were actual rules to fashion. So when I showed up at Shenandoah University, my wardrobe wasn't fresh. 

Not fresh at all. And that's an understatement.

Shoes weren't Foamposites. Jeans weren't Levi's. And a quick glance through old pictures will reveal that my shirts, as Kanye once told Sway, "Ain't Ralph Though." 

Right: Not Ralph Though... Left: Cross Colours 
The purple Reeboks pictured above (I won them from Champ Sports with a soda top lid) are just one sad example of things that were in my wardrobe. My fashion sense (or lack of fashion sense) didn't sit well with one of my teammates, Larry Tharpe. A post player from Washington, D.C., Larry's disappointment in my wardrobe reached a boiling point one day. 

I promised what happened next is a true story. Larry ran up in my room, pulled open my closet doors, and started angrily body-slamming my clothes, forbidding me to wear most of my wardrobe ever again. 

He wasn't joking! 

I'm sure all of my friends from Shenandoah University are cracking up right now ... unless you are one of the other two people that had the same experience with Larry. 

The New Testament writer Matthew records a story of a guy who has a fashion crisis worse than mine. He rolls up into a wedding party, but his outfit "ain't Ralph, though!" In the parable, everyone is invited to a wedding banquet of the king, but one guy shows up in something that's not appropriate wedding attire. 

The guy - there's always that one guy - is thrown out of the party (like Jaz on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) and is severely disciplined.

The question is why. 

In our society, fashion represents social standing. In this parable found in Matthew 22, clothing represents moral standing. The central message of the Bible is clear. Our own morality (represented by the unfit clothing in this parable) could never measure up to God's standards. 

There is no list of do's or don'ts that can make us right with God.  To put it fashion terms, our morality "ain't Ralph, though!" I'm not saying you're not a great person. I'm saying that using the biblical standard of morality, everyone falls miserably short. The picture in the parable is that this guy thinks his own morality is good enough to be in the presence of God. 

By way of contrast, the King accepts the wedding garments of the other guests. The reason is because those garments were provided by the King Himself. The garments provided by the King are a picture of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

The gospel is that Jesus came to rescue us from our moral brokenness. My pastor Rick Gilmartin always says, "We don't need rules! We need rescuing." 

Jesus lived the perfect life we could never live in our place. Then He goes to the cross on our behalf to die in our place.  The acceptable garments are a picture of the righteousness Christ provided to cover our sins. 

Jesus is our rescuer!

Imagine I wanted to go to a social event with Larry. If I would have gotten dressed in my own clothes, Larry would have said there was no way I was going out with him looking like that.  I would have had to borrow "acceptable clothes" from someone with better fashion sense. 

This is what Jesus does for those that place their trust in Him. Rather than God grading us on our morality - how well do the do's and avoid the don'ts - God grades us on Christ's morality.  And Jesus was perfect. So Christianity isn't based on what you or I did. It's based on what Christ did. 

Just like I would have needed someone with better clothes to provide me an outfit, I need someone with a perfect righteousness to provide me right standing with God. And that Someone in Jesus Christ. 

I write these blogs as conversation-starters. I would love to know: 

  • What is the worst thing you've ever worn? 
  • How do you believe man can be right with God? 

Chris Lassiter is a Christ-follower, a husband to Emily (read her blog here), a father to five kids and a freelance writer for Young Life Relationships,, and other publications. His first book, You're Grounded, was published by Moody Publications last year. You can order the book here