I don’t Look Like A Christian

tattooedcoupleA few weeks ago while sitting in a coffee shop reading, a young woman asked me what I was reading. I told her that I was reading the Bible and that led to a small conversation about reading the Bible. But then the young woman said, “I just started going to church. I know I don’t look like a Christian but I am.”

I thought about what she said. I could see the tattoos covering her arms, the numerous body piercings, and the Gothic hair style dyed an unnatural color. Was that why she said that she didn’t look like a Christian? I’m guessing so.

Okay, that got me thinking about what does a Christian look like. Regrettably, too often churches have cultivated a culture where Christianity has a certain dress-code that has more to do with style than modesty. I don’t think most churches mean to cultivate such a dress-code but when you walk into a church service where the older Christians dressed in their best Sunday dresses and suits and the younger families all have on clothing from Ralph Lauren and Ann Taylor stores, well… And this goes for us pastors too. I once noticed at a ministry conference how many of the pastors were wearing pretty much the same clothing, like they all just finished shopping at True Religion and Lucky Brand.

I’m not saying Christians are wrong for wearing the clothes they wear, even if it does become rather monolithic. But people need to know that looking like a Christian has nothing whatsoever to do with the clothes they wear, their hairstyles, and so on. Of course, few would disagree with me and yet there are still communities where Christianity has a look that may exclude anyone who looks different.

What then does a Christian look like? There are so many ways to answers that, ways which are all true. For example, a Christian looks like someone following Jesus. Or a Christian looks like someone who has been baptized and belongs to a local church. And a Christian looks like someone who has the Holy Spirit living within them as they turn away from sinful behaviors and learn to love both God and their neighbors more each day.

All that is to say that perhaps the best way of describing the look of a Christian is to say that a Christian looks like someone whom God is at work transforming into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ (cf. Rom 8:29).

So after thinking about what this young woman said for a little while, I went up to her again and told her that I think she looks like a Christian. She smiled and asked, “Why is that?”

I told her, “Because I see Jesus Christ forming in you.”

4 responses to “I don’t Look Like A Christian

  1. Reminds me of Fred Craddock’s story of meeting Ben Hooper–the former governor of Tennessee who was born out of wedlock and lived in shame as a child. He always attended church but sat in the back because he was fascinated by the big burly preacher but was ashamed because everyone knew him as the child born out of wedlock.

    One day he got caught between folks leaving and he came face to face with the preacher who said, “Why, son–whose child are you?” (He felt the blood rush to his face)..”Wait, I know. You’re the child of the King! I believe I see the family resemblance.”

  2. Amen, Rex. A good word spoken, my brother.

  3. Good article that helps check our judging and serve those that appear different or even make us uncomfortable. That being said, what will she look like as she matures in the Faith? Managing the perceptions of others, whether fair or not, is part of our walk, if we will be the best servants possible (i.e. 1 Cor. 8-11). That means in some contexts, she will have to cover her arms, and I will have to lose the suit.

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