The American company ClosetMaid, which makes all sorts of shelving and storage products, conducted a survey of 1,000 women regarding their closets. The results are fascinating. According to their findings, the average woman in America has 103 items of clothing. Of those items, 21% are considered simply unwearable. Further, 33% of those surveyed say they have clothes there that are too tight and 24% say their closet contains clothes that are too loose. I guess this should lead us not to be surprised that the researchers also found that 10% of their survey group shared that they felt depressed when they opened their closet!?! (Survey: Women’s Closets are Full to the Brim, closetmaid.com)
Now, let me first say to our ladies that I am not picking on you this morning. In fact, the only reason I don’t have similar statistics for men is that I couldn’t find any. But, I will say, I don’t think most men are much different. Like ladies, most men have way more clothes than we need. Likewise, most of us have clothes that are simply out of style and unwearable, clothes that are too tight and at least a few that make us look bigger than we already are because they are too loose.
What this all means is that at the beginning of the day, whether we are male or female, when we open our closets, we immediately rule out lots of clothes as not even a possibility for the day while focusing our attention on a much smaller selection that due to our current size, what is in style, the weather and activity of the day are appropriate for wearing. Some clothes make the cut and a lot do not.
In our text for today, Paul also uses the imagery of deciding what to wear as he talks to the young believers in Colossae. In a straightforward way, he helps them to understand that now that they are believers, there is behavior that is appropriate ‘to put on or cloth themselves with” and there is also behavior that is simply inappropriate for followers of Christ to “wear”. As believers, there is now behavior that is “out of style” and that should be ruled out for wearing and behavior that is “in style”. Paul wants them to understand that both the decision of what to wear and what not to wear behavior wise are critical for Christ followers.
This vision that Paul paints for the Colossians may have also reminded them of their baptisms. Many of you have heard me say before that in the early church, when someone was baptized, they were given a new name and a new set of clothes as they exited the water. This was a visible and tangible way of saying to them that they were a new person. They sat aside their old clothes before entering the water and then on exiting the water, they received a new name and new clothes.
In verses 5-11, our text focuses on the outer garments that as followers of Christ we should leave behind or no longer wear almost like the old clothes left behind at baptism – sexual immorality, greed, anger, rage and slander. Then, beginning in verse 12, Paul moves to the other side of things and says this is what we should put on – mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and love. Again, like the new clothes that one wears after leaving the baptismal waters.
I like this image because I think it is easy for us to relate to in modern times as well. For one, there is the strong simple reminder for us to ask ourselves what behavior or behaviors are we regularly clothing ourselves with? Are they the behaviors of a believer or are they the behaviors of a life devoid of faith? Are we wearing the clothes of our baptism or still putting on the garments we should have left behind when we first entered the baptismal waters?
At the same time, I want to suggest another thought here. In the New Testament day, you could only push this image of Paul so far related to wearing the right clothes because their wardrobes were quite limited. But today, with many choices, our question is often more focused or refined as we ask what is the best outfit for today? In other words, the weather, our activity and where we are going are a critical part of the decision making.
What if we lived this way in light of Paul’s list of behaviors to wear? What if we really began the day by allowing ourselves to think about where we are going in the day, who we are going to be with in the day and what we are going to be doing and then decide which is the best of Paul’s attributes to cloth ourselves with today?
Do those I am going to be with need me to wear gentleness today? Is where I am going today a place where love is most needed? Are the activities of today to be best met with my putting on humility? Without question, all of Paul’s attributes are worth our wearing but perhaps an even more intriguing question is to ask which is the best wardrobe for this moment, day or season?
I read a story by a writer named Gary Demarest recently and I want to end with it today. Demarest said that when his girls were growing up that as a family they went camping most of the time for their family vacations. With most of their day spent in the woods and at the camper, he went on to share that packing was really fairly easy. All they needed were some old clothes that were comfortable and that they didn’t mind getting dirty. But, he also said that they had this interesting tradition. Every time they went camping, they always set aside one night to leave the campground, travel to a nearby nice restaurant and have a good meal out. Demarest said that sometimes this meant traveling 30 or 40 miles but it didn’t matter because it was simply part of their ritual. Because of this, along with lots of old clothes, everyone brought along one nice outfit. When it was time to go to the fancy restaurant it was time to dress up. (Gary Demarest, Colossians: The Mystery of Christ In Us, Word, 1979, page 142).
Where are we headed? Who are we going to be with? What are we going to encounter? Paul has reminded us of what is available in God’s wardrobe for us to wear as followers. Which is the best choice for today? Amen.