Rick Warren wore a tie. I know that doesn’t seem to be the most profound issue to discuss about his speech before 8,000 Muslims at the Islamic Society of North America conference, but bear with me. Note, however, that even the media noticed this aberration from his normal attire in reporting: “The pastor, who usually dresses in informal Hawaiian shirts, arrived in a beige suit and yellow tie.”
While attending a conference sponsored by a major para church ministry held at Saddleback Church two years ago, I listened to Warren – in aforementioned attire – describe how he does not even own a pair of socks and – the aforementioned attire – were his standard pulpit garb (although when he was criticized for having candidate Obama on his pulpit, he declared that he doesn’t have a pulpit).
I expressed then, and since, that I was willing to make a friendly, non-financial wager that Pastor Warren did not dress like that when meeting with dignitaries of state, national or international positions. I’m sure he wears socks with his suit.
What does this disparity reveal? Frankly and pointedly, Pastor Warren displays more respect, honor and deference for politicians, Muslims, et al, than for the Holy God on Whose behalf he occupies a pulpit every Sunday. A suit and tie are appropriate to show respect to worldly leaders, but not necessary to stand up as God’s ordained shepherd and rightly divide the Holy Scriptures to the people?
This is not about a legalistic dress code, and I don’t make the claim that simply wearing suit and tie makes a pastor or anyone holy or righteous. We are all well familiar with the adage of Scripture that “… for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7)
The real issue is what we display about our attitude toward the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as well as the Son and Holy Spirit when taking up the awesome and terrifying responsibility of teaching His word to the people – presuming we are doing so. The new Casual Christianity of the contemporary “come as you are, stay as you are” church has degraded our faith more than Muslims, secularists, etc. ever could. We don’t fear God.
“Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul …” (Deut. 10:12) The concept of “fear” here is really “awe” or “reverence.” Is the great Jehovah our “cosmic buddy” or is he the all present, all powerful, all knowing Creator of all things Who deserves our highest and best at all times in all our ways?
When His people “revere” Him and indeed follow Him in all our ways, there is no force, no enemy that can stand against us. The famous prayer given before the Continental Congress by Rev. Jacob Duche that brought tears to many eyes included a reading of Psalm 35:
Let those be put to shame and brought to dishonor Who seek after my life; Let those be turned back and brought to confusion Who plot my hurt.
Let them be like chaff before the wind, And let the angel of the Lord chase them.
Let their way be dark and slippery, And let the angel of the Lord pursue them. For without cause they have hidden their net for me in a pit, Which they have dug without cause for my life.
Let destruction come upon him unexpectedly, And let his net that he has hidden catch himself; Into that very destruction let him fall.
The bottom line is that Rick Warren doesn’t need to dress up and go to the Muslims with a joint venture proposal for bringing benevolence to the world. Rev. Jonathan Edwards, one of principle clergy of the First Great Awakening gave a sermon titled “The Necessity of a Belief in Christianity” before the governor and legislature of Connecticut in 1794; he states in part:
Men and brethren, this subject concerns you all. How happy would you be, if the Lord were indeed your God? Nor can you be truly happy on any other condition. However prosperous you may be in your reputation; yet unless you are the objects of the favour of God and the heirs of eternal life, you are truly in a miserable situation. You have not only the motive of eternal happiness to choose the Lord for your God; but the motives of peace, good order and happiness of the people as a body politic, and the general prosperity of the state.
Islam is a religion birthed in deception, violence and oppression which produces the same fruits. I really don’t expect Pastor Warren to change or care one whit about my opinion. I simply wish to challenge the thousands of pastors across America who are more concerned about following our mandate that, “Whatever you do in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus …” (Col. 3:17) to raise the bar on our standard.
If we simply live and teach the transformational Christian faith and truths as true disciples of Jesus Christ, the needy will be lifted up, the oppressed will be freed and tyranny will be vanquished without any “help” from “Mahometanism” as Rev. Edwards states.
As for the tie issue, there was a reason for clerical robes and collars – however, for most evangelical clergy who have left those behind, we should search our hearts as to what standard of respect we are showing our God and displaying for our flocks when we stand behind the desk.