Anabaptism is not a lifestyle
January 24, 2013
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The bishop got up to preach one Sunday morning and proclaimed to us that when a person wore plain clothes, that was proof that he or she was born again. An unconverted person could not get himself to wear such clothes. By “plain clothes” he meant the form of clothes that was mandated in his congregation’s little book of standards.
We were contemplating joining this bishop’s church. This sermon, on top of others in a similar vein, was enough to convince my wife and I that this was not what we were looking for.
It seemed to me that the poor man did not know what the new birth was. People naturally want to dress in a way that identifies them with the group they associate with. This can be a sports team, a street gang, the boy scouts, whatever. It does not require a change of heart to put on a police uniform, an army uniform, or a lab coat. A standard of dress and conduct that is specified in a book does not make one a Christian.
Some years ago, we often had occasion to travel on Autoroute 10 in Québec and would take note of a tall, barren oak tree close to St-Jean. Then an artist cut out hundreds of oak leaves from green plastic and hung them on the tree. The leaves did improve the look of the tree, but they were not evidence of life in the tree. After a month or two, a strong wind blew the tree down.
When a person who has no spiritual life within himself tries to decorate his life by putting on clothes and conduct that he believes to be evidence of Christian life, that does not produce spiritual life with him. He is still in the same condition as that oak tree.
When a person is truly born again and listens to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, there will be a change in the way that person dresses and in the way he or she conducts his or her life. A Spirit-filled Christian should look different than the non-Christians around him, not because he is obeying a set of rules but because he is obeying the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that there will be a uniformity of dress among believers, but if they are truly following the Spirit there will be a resemblance. The Spirit does not give drastically different direction to each believer.