Liturgy and manners go together.
Liturgy is our order of worship. God requires His people to worship Him in an orderly way (1 Cor. 14). This order should not and must not preclude or exclude Christian joy and enthusiasm, but God requires His people to be thoughtful and to worship Him with reverence and awe (Heb. 12). Paul says that gathering before God in the New Covenant is not less glorious than the Old Covenant but more glorious, more terrible, more wonderful (Heb. 12). While we do not offer the bloody sacrifices of the Old Covenant system, that system nevertheless was a shadow of our true sacrificial worship in the New Covenant, in which we offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, the sacrifices of broken and contrite hearts, the sacrifices of tithes and offerings, the sacrifice of peace in fellowship with God and one another — we do all of this in order to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, and this is our reasonable service, our spiritual priestly ministry (Rom. 12:1).
Part of this is the practical result of determining to do something together: like an army going to war, we plan before hand what our good order will be (1 Cor. 14:40, Col. 2:5). When we gather to worship God together, we have to agree ahead of time about what time we will meet, where we will meet, and then, if we want to sing together, we will need to agree on the tune and the words. Whether a church prints the words in a bulletin, uses a hymnal, or some form of projection, they are agreeing together to pray those words together. Hymns and psalms are just prayers set to music. Many churches pray the Lord’s prayer together, recite the Creed together, and greet one another with prescribed words of blessing and encouragement from Scripture. As at any other event of high significance, the planning involved is meant to be a way to love one another and bestow glory and honor, in this case chiefly to the living God. A well planned party is an enormous blessing to all who attend. It has just the right amount of freedom mixed with organization, a plan, and this is just thoughtfulness about the details, about the purpose of the event, about how to make it special and memorable. It’s no different when it comes to the worship of God; in fact, how much more should the worship of God be planned, thought through carefully, for the glory of Christ and the building up of His body?
And this is what manners are in general. They are agreed upon signs and signals of honor and respect and love. Dressing appropriately for an event signals respect. Waiting for everyone to be served dinner before beginning is an expression of thoughtfulness and love. Handshakes, standing when a woman enters a room, holding doors, and so forth are agreed upon liturgies of love and kindness and honor. Even birthday greetings, anniversaries, flowers, gifts, and decorations can play into various ways we show honor, love, and kindness. And the thing to get is that they happen largely through thinking through things ahead of time, talking about them, and giving thought to what God thinks and what will be more useful for building up of the saints, and calling the world to life in Christ.
Now in a world gone mad with sin and rebellion, the main game plan is anarchy. Rearrange all the signs and symbols until they are meaningless, until personal expression is king. But don’t you see that this is to destroy language and ultimately an attempt at destroying love and honor? Love and honor require language, signs and symbols of kindness, thoughtfulness, concern, and respect. This includes both what certain things mean objectively and how various gifts and customs may be more or less appropriate or appreciated in particular contexts. We’ve all heard stories of attempts at good manners that were just awkward and out of place, sometimes especially in cross-cultural contexts. Nevertheless, Christians having been loved by our Lord with such lavish love should be at the forefront of rebuilding forms and liturgies of kindness, rebuilding language with which to communicate honor, gratitude, thoughtfulness, friendship, and hospitality because these are vehicles of grace.
But when someone shows up randomly with bright pink hair, and it wasn’t Halloween last night, what is being communicated? When someone uses very dark mascara and eye liner, what is being communicated? When someone dresses eccentrically, what is being communicated? What does it mean? Christians are obligated to do everything to the glory of God, offering their bodies as living sacrifices, laying their lives down in love for one another as Christ has laid His life down for us. At best, eccentric and odd presentations are like speaking in tongues. Maybe you are a specialist in make-up history, and you can trace your thick eye-liner to the pious prayers of St. Augustine’s mom. But if no one else knows that, you’re speaking in a foreign language: “There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me” (1 Cor. 14:10-11). And if you speak in the tongues of men and angels and have not love, you are a noisy gong or a clanging symbol (1 Cor. 13:1). But that’s at best — at worst, you’re actually adopting some of the anarchy and relativism of the world. They are saying that anything can mean anything. They are destroying love by their actions. They insist that a man sodomizing another man may be defined as love. They insist that a woman having her breasts removed (for psychological reasons, e.g. she thinks she is a man) can be defined as kindness. They insist that a woman having a boy’s hair cut can mean beautiful. And they insist that telling the truth about any of these things is actually hate speech. And they are busy offering this anarchic worldview up in their clothing catalogues, their fashion shows, their movies, and music. Be yourself. You can be anything you want. Choose your own destiny. Follow your heart. Except of course, if you are Harvey Weinstein or Donald Trump or Kevin Spacey. Then you might not want to follow your heart so much or be yourself because… um… well, we don’t really know why, but… the Russians!
So here’s the point: we are always called to serve one another, love one another, including our enemies, including those who persecute us, returning blessing for cursing. But all of this depends upon a vocabulary, a language of words, signs, and symbols that allow for love and kindness and honor to be communicated. In the classic missionary account Peace Child, Don Richardson recounts the custom of certain savage natives of befriending members of another tribe, inviting them for meals, sharing holidays, a custom they called “fattening with friendship,” the goal of which was to eventually (and suddenly) kill and eat the person. This is what paganism always does, and this is one of the great problems with Black Panther (but that’s for another blog post). Paganism, unbelief, rejection of the Triune God always cuts at the heart of love and friendship and hospitality and honor. But God in His mercy has come to bring us back to the truth, to tell the truth about our lies and sin and rebellion, and to truly deal with it all. This is the path of Christian sincerity, love, and hospitality — it isn’t flattery, it isn’t hatred masked as friendship, it isn’t pretending.
Christian worship should be the center of this sincerity because God only receives worship in spirit and in truth. But the good news is that this is what salvation is. When God gives sinners new hearts, He gives them the desire to worship, and this is principally given in the gift of the Holy Spirit who also gives the ability to worship. This Spirit is in the process of reversing the curse of Babel, so that we might offer sincere worship together, with one voice, one heart, and one mind. And if this is the center of our lives together in Christ, surely other signs of friendship, hospitality, and thoughtfulness flow from this too. It’s not legalism to say that all that metal in your face is barbaric — literally, it communicates confusion, like those ancient European savages that seemed to the Romans to be saying bar-bar-bar. It’s not legalism to say all those tattoos make you look like a cannibal. That kind linguistic violence is cannibalistic. And I’m not talking about some dumb little heart you have on your ankle. I’m talking about the culture of ink, the lust for cutting, the self-loathing and self-mutilation that necessarily accompanies the rejection of the peace of Christ. But don’t fool yourself, saying that when you go into that temple, to get that sweet Hebrew tat on your neck, you’re not worshiping their gods.
It’s not legalism to say that your clownish-colored hair is like a clanging cymbal. Lots of sophisticated words without love is a noisy gong. Manners are love in these little things, communicating kindness, care, thoughtfulness for others in the back and forth of community life. And yes, all of us are learning this a little bit at a time. And all of us have habits and customs that still need refining. All of us are still rather savage, but when we have already died and our lives are hidden with Christ in God, our identities are not in any of those things. We may happily lay anything down for the glory of Christ and the building up of His body. And all those old scars and pictures and memories become monuments to His grace.
Larry Crawford says
I’ve been thinking about getting a Leviticus 19:28 tattoo
Remington Mallery says
Are you seriously asking why Hollywood will not except the actions of Harvey Winston and Kevin Spacey?
They took advantage of someone else while the other issues are two consenting adults, yes in sin, but still consenting. No one is blaming the Russians for Harvey’s acts, they blame Harvey. Apparently you are against short or pink hair but in a way defend these men who have been proven guilty of some of the most unspeakable crimes against God and man. You may not have meant to, but that is what comes across in your article, and you showed more care for Harvey Winston than a woman who wears pink hair. I saw no rebuke for a monster who raped women and abused a gift from God, daily spiting in His face with his acts and you use him to prove your point for shaming woman more! A man who will not stand and defend any woman and do everything in his power to protect them (pink hair or not) is in support of such crimes. I have read most of your pink hair articles as well as a few from Wilson concerning similar thoughts and all I and many more can walk away with is not the love of Christ or laws of God but men who want to subjugate woman mentality and sexually. You have shamed woman and glossed over the wolves that prey on the creature we were designed to protect. I know you are tearing my words to shreds and feel I am wrong. That is all you know how to do, that is all most outside of your church can see. I am truly sickened and sad at the actions and words of men such as you and Wilson. You may not have done the horrible deeds like Harvey but you have glossed over and made light of their crimes and at times defended men just like him and in doing so, makes you just as guilty. Shame on you for spitting in the Face of Christ.
Remington, I’d recommend you re-read the article a little more carefully. The entire point is to give Christians a far more robust foundation upon which to stand against the exploitation and mistreatment of women and children. Violence against the weak begins when we fail to honor and cherish those around us in the little things: manners, clothing, words, etc.
Toby, I sincerely appreciate most of what you’re trying to communicate here, but I’m wondering what you deem to be “That kind [of] linguistic violence” that’s “cannibalistic,” if it’s not the “dumb little heart you have on your ankle?” At what point does it become “the culture of ink?” Same goes for the piercings, hair coloring, etc. I get that the guy who looks like he’s fallen face-first in a tackle box is obviously making a statement, but what about the lady with multiple ear piercings, or who has pink highlights for artistic effect, not because of a leftist, feminist agenda? Also, at the point you say “don’t fool yourself, saying that when you go into that temple, to get that sweet Hebrew tat on your neck, you’re not worshiping their gods,” it seems like you are stating it’s no longer about “the lust for cutting, the self-loathing and self-mutilation that necessarily accompanies the rejection of the peace of Christ,” but about worshipping false gods the moment one goes into a tattoo parlor. So is it the “culture of ink,” or the parlor? If you say parlor, it seems you have a whole bunch more explaining to do. e.g., pubs, resorts with casinos, etc. If you say it’s about the “culture,” it further seems you have a responsibility to make a distinction about where that line is and not dodge the issue with a nebulous sorites paradox. For what it’s worth, those are my thoughts. I’d love to hear your response. Grace and peace!
Scott, the trouble is that sinful hearts love to hide in facile distinctions. We want exceptions and fine print to justify our worldliness. Christians are some of the most naive people on the planet — God bless us! — and we have this terrible habit of adopting worldly uniforms and habits and insisting it’s “not because of a leftist, feminist agenda” and then we are shocked and confused when our children and grandchildren adopt the next logical step in the progression away from Christ. So, the tension you notice in my argument is intentional and exactly what we find in the New Testament. Is it the temple of Aphrodite or the sex with the prostitute in the temple of Aphrodite? Is it the steak offered to Athena or the fact that your brother tells you it was offered to Athena? The questions you ask are exactly what we need to be asking. Don’t fool yourself. That’s a key phrase. And when we put it this way, most of the questions fade away really fast. Cheers.
Pastor Sumpter, thank you for speaking the truth.
Remington, you missed the entire thrust of this thread. No one supports the vile actions of the Hollywood crowd or those in high positions with consenting or non-consenting immorality. The pink hair business is a hot button for those who want to walk on the wild side instead of adorning themselves modestly. Just think about it for a moment.
When have you seen a flock of pink hair ladies protesting abortion? Nope, instead for the most part, those with pink hair are all for murdering the unborn.
When have you seen women with pink or blue or purple hair standing against those who beat their wives and marry them at extremely young ages or force them to wear all black clothing? Nope, for the most part they support plural marriage and do not protest against the honor killings of those who do not obey false teachings.
What I see are men and women, American Christians, giving into the ways of the world and then complaining about those who sound the trumpet calling out warnings.
Dave, “When have you seen women with pink or blue or purple hair standing against those who beat their wives and marry them at extremely young ages or force them to wear all black clothing? Nope, for the most part they support plural marriage and do not protest against the honor killings of those who do not obey false teachings.” This just reinforces how ignorant you are. Every pink or blue or purple haired woman I know strongly and firmly stands against abuse in every instance, including the spiritual abuse that happens in this cult.
Put down the Kool Aid and get outside your comfort zone.
Anon when I see flocks of pink hair saving babies lives instead of shouting to kill those same defenseless babies in their mothers wombs, I will consider rethinking hair color. Otherwise, it is obvious those who take the pink hair route are trying to appease the world instead of being salt and light in the world as scripture calls us to be.
Nellie Aspen says
I’ve read the four articles I saw about pink hair because I was curious. I think that sounds a bit like when people on the left say “when anti-abortion advocates start supporting public programs to support mothers/children/ immigrants then I will listen to them.”
There are people who have pink hair that I know who are anti-abortion and pro-life. I was that person for awhile, but you didn’t see me because you aren’t omniscient. Sometimes we just can’t see when other people are doing good because we are looking for it to look a certain way.
There was a long period in my life when I had pink hair, and I loved it. I ended up bleaching it and growing out my natural hair to conform with the more conservative culture when I moved because being professional in my job was more important to me than that self expression.
So, I guess I see your point that it can communicate something and isn’t a conformist behavior in conservative circles, and that lack of conformity could extent to other values. I wonder if maybe when you were trying to respond to your pastoral concern for women if there would be a gentler less harsh way for you to communicate that. I know people in your camp like to talk about how strong, harsh and martial men should be, but I wonder if it would be better communication if you remembered different people need different tones: “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14; see also James 4:6). Yes, sometimes people are week, sometimes they are offended. People can find themselves being attacked on all sides, and it can get to a point where they are paranoid and every interaction feels like an attack. I’ve been there and that is such an incredibly terrifying and painful place to be. I’m so thankful for the faithful Christians who’ve come alongside me.
This gentleness seems especially relevant to your worldview though since you believe that women are the weaker vessels no? Shouldn’t you be more gentle?
(I do want to say, I have been greatly encouraged by your book No Mere Mortals as I’ve been going through it with my fiancĂ©, and I’ve listened to a few of your talks on YouTube. I know text replies like this can sometimes communicate a different tone than intended and I wanted to close my comment by communicating my desire to encourage you.)
Thanks very much, Nellie.