Working in a professional environment for the past 20 years, appropriate dress is something that has come with the territory, such as the mandatory dress code required with certain professions. That said one of the things I quickly became fond of were those days where I could dress down; that day where everyone can shed the profession veneer and dress, as we call it, “casual”. For many businesses, this idea of dressing casual has become such a hit that a day or days of the week have been designated as casual days and being honest, I look do forward to them.
Thinking on the term casual, and looking beyond the doors of the office space, I can’t help but see how its identity, that of the casual being, has permeated our culture. The relaxed, unconcerned and indifferent person seems to have found his/her place in our dress; the way we look; how we act, an area I find humorous when trying to imagine what that might even look like; “Act casual”, one friend says to another as he/she struggles with how to play it in the presence of a love interest; and sadly, down to the most intimate area of life, that of our sex lives. It seems as if there is room for the casual individual in any and all circumstances and, if accepted for the Christian, would put them in eternal danger.
In Revelation 3 v 14 – 22 Jesus writes through the Apostle John to the church of Laodicea, a church that in retrospect, had become casual with their faith. Jesus speaks to the heart of the issue in verses 15 when he says:
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!
In speaking, He is confronting a church who had achieved prosperity in Christ to the point where they felt they no longer needed anything; a place the writer of Proverbs 30 v 8 – 9 warned against in saying:
“but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Laodicea had gotten to this point and it was going cost them as it does many in the faith who become casual towards grace and what it cost for us to receive it.
When thinking about the reality of the casual Christian, the question that comes to mind is how one gets to that point. I believe the answer is found in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. In Roman 12 v 2, a life verse for me, Paul states the following:
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
The issue and the answer is found in ones conforming or adapting to the pattern of the world around them. What if the pattern is one that is not in line or worse, goes against the will and way of God? What is the Christian to do in the face of such pressure? Thankfully, and as always, we can look to Jesus for the answer.
In reading the gospels you will come across instances where Jesus was criticized for he and his disciple’s unwillingness to follow the lead of the religious leaders of the day. Two issues come to mind when thinking on this, those of fasting and washing. In the first, they are criticized for not fasting like the rest of them; to which Jesus responded in Mark 2 v 19:
“Can the guests of the bridegroom fast while He is with them? As long as He is with them, they cannot fast.”
With the second, Jesus is criticized because his disciples aren’t washing before the touching food. Now, I hear you saying, “Sean, isn’t promoting healthy hygiene a good thing?” and on the surface, that is right but, this wasn’t there concern and Jesus calls them on it in Matthew 15 v 11:
“A man is not defiled by what enters his mouth, but” by what comes out of it.”
Pressures facing Jesus were in relation to custom and he used logic in showing the difference in His heart compared to theirs. In the case of fasting Jesus states His presence and that they couldn’t be anymore closer to God in that time. Jesus isn’t saying that fasting shouldn’t be done but that with the Christ present, it wasn’t necessary. With the washing, Jesus is showing that their reasoning was backwards. Food touched and consumed by unclean hands doesn’t make us spiritually unclean. It may make you sick but, with a right heart, isn’t going to separate you from God and He states this truth in Matthew 15 v 17 – 18:
“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.”
Interesting thing about patterns is that they often change. We see this looking at culture and what drives it from generation to generation. Knowing this, Jesus wasn’t going to allow the worldly pattern to influence him. He didn’t come here for that reason and it is not the reason we are here; to be blown in whatever direction the worldly pattern would decide to take us. Jesus came to define it and there was nothing casual in His to patterning the good, pleasing and perfect will of God; a will we can know and live out ourselves.
If there was ever anything to be casual about, our faith, God’s grace in Christ isn’t it. To be relaxed, unconcerned and indifferent is to be spit out; the result illustrated in Jesus’s writing to the Laodiceans in Revelation 3 v 16. The casual Christian is a wasted Christian who only hurts themselves and more than that, those looking for the truth in an ever-changing world. For the one thinking I may be stretching things to far, I highlight a few quotes taken from Philip Yancey’s book “Church, Why Bother?”.
Poet Anne Sexton puts it, “They pounded nails into his hands. After that, well, after that everyone wore hats …”
Atheistic philosopher Friedrich Nietzche said, “I would believe in their salvation if they looked a little more like the people who have been saved.”
May this never be said of me or us and if it could be said, I repent and pray the same for you as well.
God Bless – Sean Bosse