I’ve never liked that phrase “Put on your Sunday Best.” You may have grown up hearing that same expression. It generally meant, “Wear the most uncomfortable clothes you have for church.” I’m not big on ties so I never liked it. I don’t really know how it got started, and I know most churches don’t have dress codes nowadays, but I feel this idea of “putting on our Sunday best” can still go beyond merely what we are wearing.
Maybe you think that a church setting is the last place you want anyone to know what you’re really going through or how things really are in your heart and mind. So you put on your Sunday best. You fake it. You act like nothing is wrong and say things like “I am too blessed to be stressed,” when in reality you are on the verge of breaking down and crying.
A lot of Christians can seem to have the mentality that Christians aren’t supposed to ever let something get the best of them or ever just be sad. Since “the joy of the Lord is our strength,” we don’t have to be moved by the things of this world. And while I do believe that we have strength to overcome any opposition, it doesn’t mean that the process of overcoming them isn’t very difficult, heartbreaking, and emotionally draining.
To put it plainly: sometimes life just sucks, and there’s no way around it. And the idea that we have to put on our Sunday best and hide our realities from God and our friends is completely backward. The church is the place we should be the most real. The church is meant for broken, hurting, and lost people. What makes us the “people of God” is not the fact that we are stronger than everyone else. What makes us the people of God is that we know we are weak and messed up people that need a great God to intervene or we just will not make it.
I don’t know what your image of God is. Maybe you kind of view him as someone who made us, then left us alone. Maybe you think he loves some people more than others, like the ones who are really involved in church and don’t drink or swear. Maybe you think of God like he is the president of this club called “church” where if you’re not a member then you aren’t really allowed to ask anything of him or talk to him. Or maybe you just think God couldn’t possibly know what you’re going through right now, and really doesn’t care. So you put on your Sunday best because no one wants to see you as you really are and know what is really going on.
I don’t claim to be a Bible scholar or know God any better than most people. But I do know what the Bible tells me about my God, and I believe it. We believe that Jesus is our God, and that as God, He became a man and endured the troubles and trials of this world just as we are.
This is what the Book of Isaiah says about Jesus.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows,and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
He knows what it means to be sad; He was a man of sorrows. He knows what it means to have all your friends abandon you; He was despised and rejected.
I can’t connect with a God that sits a million miles away from me and looks at me constantly disappointed about my sins. I could be afraid of a God like that, but I don’t think I could love a God like that. But I can love Jesus. I can love and connect with a God that knows what it means to hurt and to bleed and to cry. I can love a God that loves me enough to come to me, and to endure a cross just to win my heart and affections.
The church should be the last place in the world where you need to put on your Sunday best. We serve a God that is more real, authentic, and undone than anyone else you could imagine. A God who calls the hurting and the sinners not to get themselves together and then come talk to him, but a God who calls us to come as we are.
Broken. Dirty. Selfish. Embarrassed. Ashamed. Angry. Depressed. Hateful. Lost. He’s not waiting for you to get your act together first, because He knows you can’t do it without Him.
For we do not have a high priest (meaning Jesus) who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
He is calling you. Maybe you’ve never felt like God wanted anything to do with you, but could I suggest that maybe you’ve had the wrong view of who Jesus really is? You are never to far away to come to him. You are never too messed up. You have never sinned too many times.
The reason we are the people of God isn’t because we’re smarter or stronger than anyone else in this world, it’s just because we know our God loves us just as we are. Allow yourself to be who you really are before God and before His people. That is where the hope is. That is where the change begins.