I got into the office this morning, made some tea, grabbed a meal bar, and sat down at my desk to get to work. Only then did I notice that I am wearing a black belt and brown shoes.
This is not because I am ignorant of style restrictions in this regard. Years ago, my wife taught me that a man’s belt and shoes should match: black and black, brown and brown, and so on. Nor is it because I am striving to be a style rebel today, flouting convention for the sake of flouting convention.
I am not wearing mismatched belt and shoes in an endeavor to start a new style revolution, though I often wonder how such trends do begin. Who decides when ties should be narrow or wide? When suits should have two buttons or three or four? When pants should have hems or not?
Not me, clearly.
Sadly, the simple explanation for my style faux pas is that I didn’t notice what I was putting on this morning as I was putting it on. I was thinking about other things at the time. Had I been paying more attention to my attire, I wouldn’t be writing this blog.
It seems to me that the whole question of matching clothes is more esoteric than practical. My shoes will function today precisely as they would have if they had been black. My belt will do what it would have done if it had been brown. I can think of no practical reason why the two must match beyond selling men more than one color of belt if they own more than one color of shoes. It is the same with two- or three-button jackets, button-down shirts, and so on.
Why, then, do I care whether my shoes and belt match?
Because I want to conform to social norms. I do not want to be thought less of on the basis of my attire. I want to fit in, to do what everyone else is doing. I suspect you feel the same way about your adherence to clothing styles as well.
There is a larger lesson here, one that will be relevant and vital long after this day is done and I (presumably) return to the matching-shoes-and-belt norms of our culture tomorrow: I must be willing to flaunt convention whenever convention conflicts with Christ.
Many in our secularized culture have faith in faith. They believe that so long as they believe, that is enough. If I tell them that the object of their faith is crucial to the validity of their faith, they will call me intolerant and legalistic. If I add that they must make my Lord their Lord, they will reject my assertion as even more intolerant and prideful.
As a result, it’s easier to go along to get along, to conform to norms, to separate our commitment to Christ from our commitment to cultural acceptance. So long as I have personal saving faith in Jesus and therefore know that I am going to heaven when I die, I can be tempted to downplay my personal faith in public when such faith comes at a cost.
So, I fear, can you.
The antidote to this temptation is to remind ourselves every day that “there is salvation in no one else [but Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
It is to remind ourselves also that sharing God’s invitation to salvation with others is not forcing our beliefs on them but offering them the greatest gift in all the world. The more I care about someone, the more I want their best. It is precisely the same with the people I know and love today.
If your belt and shoes match today, congratulations.
If you’re conforming to social norms with regard to the “intolerance” of evangelism, today is the day to refuse convention for the sake of eternal souls.
Charles Spurgeon was blunt: “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”