Wearing the Scars of Faith
I’ve been blessed to have experienced the good, the bad and the ugly while wearing a clergy shirt. We live in a highly visual society. We also live in a society that is jaded, cynical and incredulous. Most employment conditions require a “uniform”. Even “business” or “professional” attire indicates that the worker labors in an environment where their clothes are to transmit to others the notion that they belong to a “reputable”, “serious” and “successful” establishment within the body of corporate America.
Blue Collar, white collar… these collars represent segments of the American labor force. They represent particular jobs and they also bring to mind stereotypes. We can be prejudicial when we see an individual wearing either of the two collars I mention - just as we can when we see someone wearing a clerical collar.
The plain people used and many still wear plain clothes. Their attire sets them apart and all who see them know who they are – for the most part. They may be confused with whether they’re Brethren, Mennonites or Amish, for instance, but they are correctly identified as a Christian group known for their love for neighbor, great food, disdain for electricity and great examples of forgiveness and peace.
These groups are clearly seen as a people set apart, different. Nowadays it seems that there isn’t anything that distinguishes a Christian from a non-Christian. We dress the same, we curse, we do not exercise temperance or moderation, we are as caught up in the worldly pursuits of money, gossip and power as the next person is. We are slaves to time and we even cut time off of our corporate and personal worship of God because we have “things to do”.
Christianity is not counter-cultural. At least, I don’t think we are supposed to confront society. Rather, we are to demonstrate that Christians are a part of an alternative society. Confrontation is not peaceful, neither is it effective. Ultimately, we are using the methods of the world and the mind of men to address the things of the Spirit if we choose to confront. But, we can be agent provocateurs through our love, actions and exhibiting a lifestyle that isn’t in compliance with worldly standards by any means.
I do not feel that I must reject a clerical shirt because it’s too “catholic” or because I don’t want to be associated with child molesters. I want to take on the burden of the Church and be the source of people’s ridicule, hatred and contempt as well as their pastor, spiritual parent, mentor and friend.
As Christ took on the sins of the world, I am called to take on the burdens and failures of the Church upon my shoulders, too. I am to shoulder the pain and suffering of the people – justified or not - as well provide through love and action – an alternative to their heartfelt opinions . . . to provide a love that will demonstrate that the collar - like my soul, my spirit and my life is also redeemable. . . this is alternative that we seek. . .
For me, wearing the collar challenges me and admonished me. It warns me to NOT embarrass the Lord I claim to serve with my hubris and indolence. It reminds me of the price I will pay for causing lambs to stray and fall due to teaching anything that isn’t the Lord’s Gospel.
These are distinguishing marks of an alternative society. Of members who have checked out of this world and live in the Kingdom of the Eternal now! That we who call Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, Lord and Savior, choose to live a life marked by scars - having died to self on the cross - and resurrected into a new life in the Spirit. We live a life distinguished by all things being put under the Christ, no aspect of our life is under our own control. May we embrace shame and take on the burdens of the world as He took the shame and burden of my sin.
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