If, as it has been said, our uniforms are our priestly garb, or the evidence of the internal change within us; how should we then wear these things we call uniforms?
The purpose behind the uniform’s creation was three-fold; 1) to present a unified army of salvation, 2) to dis-spell class systems in its core body, 3) to model the military only for a holy purpose.
Times have changed, have they not?
The world looks a lot different from the Victorian era doesn’t it?
Society has progressed and at times, dare I say organizations and movements such as our Army has been slow in its modifications and applications. We do walk a fine line here do we not? We do want to be attractive when it comes to reaching souls for Christ and adding to our army, but at the same time we do not wish to become an invisible army that has sacrificed its soul for the sake of relevancy.
Afraid Of Change?
Last week the school where my children attend had a major set back. It has been given the opportunity to relocate into a bigger, better school building and so it is preparing to move. However, not all of its staff and even parents of students see this as a good thing. A number of teachers resigned. A number of parents threatened to pull their children from this school and go elsewhere. This was the reaction to sudden change. Change causes fear and anxiety. Anyone who says that they enjoy change has either become good adapters or are lying.
How does this relate to our Army? We, in some ways, fear change as well. Some would argue, “Why change anything, it worked for Booth, it should work for us.“; others would say, “well, it was good enough in my day, why isn’t it good enough to these young upstarts?” Sometimes these comments and thoughts only seek to maintain things the way that they are due to (even subconsciously) a fear of change, a fear of the unknown.
Switching gears from change to uniform wear…
The uniform shouldn’t be completely eliminated from The Salvation Army. There, I’ve said it, perhaps some might breathe a sigh of relief. We need uniformity in some shape or form. We need to be recognized as The Salvation Army. These uniforms open doors for service and opportunities that others might not have. That being said, let me highlight briefly today 3 wrong ways that we wear our uniforms.
The Cart Before The Horse?
Both 1&2 (1) No longer is it a public witness
(2) It Can Divide and Distract Worshipers:
I believe the uniform that once united people in the worship setting is now a distraction to the worship setting. Don’t get me wrong, I wear my uniform faithfully every Sunday, but is the uniform affordable to common people? Is the uniform something by which newcomers see and feel a part of the body or apart from the body? Historically speaking the uniform was used as an outside witness tool. Open airs were staged and uniforms were visible for the public to witness as marching soldiers fell upon a town square and declared the gospel of Jesus Christ to the whosoever. Souls were brought to Christ. Active enrollments happened frequently. It wasn’t a knee jerk reaction or a mandated affair because numbers are down.
Today, the uniform seems to have become predominantly an internal vessel of worship. Soldiers do not wear these uniforms in public as they used to (maybe a few diehards out there or in places like Africa, India and South America). Officers wear them, most are worn proudly, some out of obligation. These uniforms identify the officer in public places and they still do open doors. This is pivotal…but where are the soldiers? Where are the open airs?
I am not chastising hard working soldiers here, I am just pondering why the uniform has predominantly disappeared in the public eye on the weekends unless you visit a corps building? I think we have gotten the cart before the horse. I think we have misplaced the purpose of the uniform. I have heard of soldiers today who wear their uniforms throughout town and invite people to their holiness meetings. They use their uniforms in a way that we have somehow forgotten about. They use them as a means of invitation and witness not as a means of identification in the corps building. These same soldiers then upon arriving at the corps for worship take off their uniforms and dress in regular clothes so that new members who have just been invited do not feel out of place or aliens in a sea of blue.
3) As A Pharisee and “Law” Enforcer
I will most likely get some comments about this one…so be it. I have witnessed it first hand. My wife was even spoken to once rather harshly because her top button wasn’t buttoned in a meeting. (I was like, “Are you kidding me?”) There are pharisees in uniforms among us. I do not wish to sound judgmental but Jesus had some very harsh things to say about such people. I pray that I never become one myself. I pray that I do not care so much about how my uniform looks or how the uniform looks upon someone else so much so that the condition of one’s heart is irrelevant. If we use the uniform to lord position and power over others then I fear we will have lost our way as an Army of Salvation. We will have become a hollow army only caring about appearances instead of holy living and conditions of the heart.
I am thankful, however, that this third use of uniform is not predominant. There are pharisees in almost every church and organization. Unfortunately, some of them are in positions of power and authority. Fortunately we serve a God of absolute authority and all will be held accountable to Him one day in how we have conducted our lives. I can work on me, I can live my life for Him, I do not have to ponder long on such people when there is still work to be done.
Are We Wearing Our Uniforms Improperly?
I do not mean are you wearing white socks with your uniform? I do not mean is your top button unbuttoned? I do not mean the use of your tunic…I mean how are you using the uniform for God’s glory? How are you using the uniform to bring people to Christ? Are you conscience of the uniform’s detractors? This may be something we come to disagreement on…that’s fine, but let’s not stop talking about such things and consider such things as we seek to serve One God under One mission!
This is something more to for our Army world to Ponder today.
Some may say I have gone too far here, some may say that I haven’t gone far enough. What say you?