To me this is one of the most baffling and perplexing things in connection with our Christian lives, and I find myself halting between two obvious opinions.
There is much in me that not only understands, but likes, the practice of the early Quakers who used to dress differently from other people.
Their idea was that they wanted to show the difference between the Christian and the non-Christian, between the Church and the world. They said that we must not even look like the world; we must look different.
Now in every Christian there must be something that heartily says “Amen” to that. I cannot understand the Christian who wants to look like the typical, average, worldly person in appearance, in dress or in anything else — the loudness, the vulgarity, the sensuality of it all.
No Christian should want to look like that. So there is something very natural about this reaction against it and this desire to be quite different. But that, unfortunately, is not the only aspect of this subject.
The other aspect of it is that it is not of necessity true that “the apparel doth proclaim the man” in this respect. The dress does proclaim the man up to a point, but not completely so.
The pharisees wore a particular dress and “made broad their phylacteries”, but it did not guarantee true righteousness. Indeed, the Bible teaches that ultimately that is not the way in which the Christian is differentiated from the non-Christian.
It seems to me that it is what I am that shows the difference. If I myself am right, the rest is likely to follow. So that I do not proclaim that I am a Christian by dressing in a particular way so much as by being what I am.
But think this out. It is an interesting and very fascinating question. I think probably the truth is that both statements are right.
As Christians we should all desire to be unlike those worldlings, and yet at the same time we must never get into the position of saying that it is dress that truly proclaims what we are.
Answered by Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981)