Have you ever been under dressed for an occasion? You were told it was casual attire, but your definition of casual is somewhat lower than everyone else at the event. I guess men don’t care as much as the ladies, but there have been a few times where I sported blue jeans and a polo among the coats and ties. It was a little embarrassing, but mostly I was just annoyed at how the word casual could be interpreted so differently.

Of course, sometimes your occupation requires a certain attire.  Law enforcement, fire fighters, astronauts, even the men and women who work in Missouri’s lead mines have a certain code for dress, or else the hazards of their jobs might put their lives in danger.

My wife and I watch Downton Abbey together (don’t judge me), and the attention given to clothing for every different social situation is suffocating. In Edwardian Great Britain, the upper class would change clothes upwards of four times per day, depending on the day’s activities.

Our clothes play an important role in our lives. They offer protection, warmth, and they can communicate status, even mood. So the question is, what is the most important thing you wear?

But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:11-14 ESV)

This isn’t the entire parable, but it is the part that always freaked me out.  It’s the final paragraph of the parable of the wedding feast. In short, the king invited many people to his son’s wedding, and attendees of the wedding were supposed to wear a wedding garment. It’s kind of like black-tie events. To get in, you must be wearing a dinner jacket with a black tie. Anything less and you’ll be denied entrance or asked to leave if you are caught.

At this wedding, since the original invited guests refused to come (see earlier in the parable), the king invited whomever was willing to come. In doing so, the poor, the uneducated, the foreigner were brought into the celebration. Since these people had no means to dress for the occasion, the king provides the proper attire for his son’s wedding to each guest. Later, he discovers one who was not wearing the provided wedding garment, and that guest was bound and cast out.

I always puzzled over the wedding garment. It was clearly the most important clothing at the party because if you weren’t wearing it, you got bounced. What is it? What does this mean?  When we get to heaven, will some of the people who made it inside get bounced? That’s a frightening proposal.

This week, while reading through 1 Corinthians 13, I finally gained clarity on the end of this parable. Paul tells the believers in Corinth that on the glorious day that we all stand before Jesus, the spiritual gifts they were arguing over would no longer exist.  Even faith and hope would no longer exist because God would be with us and us with Him.  The only thing that will last into that eternal state is love. The love of God is all that will remain with us.

Then in Colossians 3 we read that we should be putting on, as we would a garment . . .

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Love is the wedding garment. And not just any love, but the love of God. That unfortunate man’s own garments – his own love – wasn’t enough. He was to wear the wedding garment provided for him – the love of God. Here’s the point. When we all stand before Christ, everything temporary will fade. Possessions, social status, wealth, and even spiritual gifts, all things unnecessary for eternal life in God’s presence will be counted as nothing and fade into history. The only thing that will remain is the love of God, which we wear as a garment.

If everything temporary fades, and you have no garment of God’s love, you will be shown to be a fraud, a tare, a false believer, a wolf, one who did many things in Jesus’ name but had not love. You have gained nothing and lost everything.  And in the end, your destiny is eternally separated from God’s love. Don’t be the wedding guest without a wedding garment. Be dressed for the occasion. Judgment day is a white tie event, and the proper attire is given freely when you trust Christ alone for salvation and are born again. Any other garments just won’t do. Be sure you have the right clothes before you arrive.