Gerald was aware he was trembling as he stood before the mirror. His hand went to where his tie should be, where his unbuttoned shirt collar sat open and, he thought, indecent. Why on earth had he consented to this insanity!
He glanced at his wife as she adjusted her hat, there would be no support there if he changed his mind. Meredith looked up at him, well aware of his struggle.
“It will be fine, dear,” she soothed. “You look wonderful. Now, time to go.” She took his hand and got him out the door before he could snatch his tie from the wardrobe.
As they drove in silence Gerald remembered the visit from two young fellows from the congregation three days before.
“Mr. Wilson,” they carefully explained. “You know this issue is tearing our church apart, and we would like to understand. Which verse in particular do you feel commands that we must wear a tie to church? Or in fact dictates what we must wear?”
He stared at them with his mouth open. In spite of many months of debate, he couldn’t think of a verse on the spot, but given time to look he might find one.
“Well,” he said at last, “we have to dress our best, as you well know. We come for a meeting with the King of Kings. We come respectfully, and those, those …” (he didn’t quite know how to describe them, aware his visitors were among them) “those folks who say we don’t need ties and best suits are showing disrespect, as I’ve already told you many times.”
“Yes, sir, we do need to show respect. But Jesus is also our friend; he is even called our brother. Do you put your tie on every time you see your friends, or your brothers?”
“Of course not, that’s different. We’re talking about church, a formal occasion, a time when we need to dress properly, and not come with a sloppy attitude and sloppy clothing.” His face grew red at the thought. “Scripture says so,” he added, “and besides, in this church we’ve always done it this way.”
“We feel our dress code is a barrier to outsiders coming to church,” said Tim. “We want our friends to come and hear the Word of the Lord, but some of my friends don’t even own a tie, let alone a suit, and they find us intimidating and would feel out of place.”
Gerald grunted. Perhaps his finances would stretch for a few spare ties and he could donate some old suits so visitors could be properly attired.
Matt went on. “Scripture says that even the Apostle Paul made changes to the way he acted for Jews or Greeks to bring them to Christ. Scriptures on clothing, besides saying we are clothed in righteousness, also ask us to be clothed with humility.”
“Righteousness,” barked Gerald, “righteousness is what we uphold in our church.” But words like righteousness and humility didn’t say much about what sort of suit or accessories you should wear. Why couldn’t he think of a suitable scripture?
“We came to ask you a favour,” Tim continued. “Do you think that for just one Sunday, this coming week, you could come to church without a tie? It would help to breach the rift that’s developed, and show humility. It would say that the main thing is that we come together to worship God in unity. Do you think you could do that for one week?”
In spite of himself, Gerald had agreed. “Just one week, mind, it won’t be permanent.”
Now here they were, approaching the church and he felt decidedly under dressed. As he pulled into the parking lot, his fellow elder, Jim, drove up alongside and with surprise Gerald noted his lack of a tie.
“You, too,” he grinned sheepishly, glad of the company. Meredith took his arm and they made their way inside. At the door, Tim and Matt greeted them, resplendent in their ties.
“What?” Gerald blustered.
“Welcome to God’s house of worship,” Matt said cheerfully, handing them the notice sheet. When Gerald and Meredith were seated and looked around, Gerald’s eyes popped at the sight of his entire fellow elders tie-less, and the no-tie faction all wearing ties.
“What a big fuss we’ve been making about nothing,” he whispered to Meredith. She grinned and squeezed his hand.
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