Have you ever heard the saying, “dress the part”? It’s an idiom that means dressing the way that people in a particular role would usually dress. If you want people to believe you are a lawyer or a doctor, you need to “dress the part.” A lawyer wouldn’t show up in court wearing a baggy sweatshirt, flip-flops, and ragged jeans but would “dress the part” and show up in a suit. A doctor wouldn’t show up in the operating room of a hospital wearing a tux or an evening gown but would “dress the part” and show up in hospital scrubs. There is an expectation that people in a certain role dress a certain way.
This same idea holds true for followers of Christ. If we are His followers, His disciples, we need to reflect Him. People should be able to look at us and know that we are His disciples. We need to “dress the part.” This doesn’t mean that we have to walk around wearing a robe and sandals. The clothes that we need to wear to “dress the part” as followers of Christ are not physical clothes but spiritual clothes. The clothes we need to wear are seen in our character, which is reflected in the way that we treat others. In his letter to the Colossian church, the apostle Paul wrote:
“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. ” (Colossians 3:12-15)
The wardrobe that we must wear if we are to show ourselves as followers of Christ, if we are to “dress the part,” are tenderhearted mercy, kindness, gentleness, and patience. And, on top of all those things, we need to wear love. To “dress the part” as a disciple of Christ means putting on the character of Christ. To “dress the part” of a disciple, we don’t have to be Bible scholars or be able to recite the whole Bible from memory. We don’t have to be rich. We don’t have to have a Master’s degree in theology. We need to treat others the way that God treats us. We need to be merciful. We need to be kind and gentle. We need to show patience. And, most of all, we need to love others, because love creates unity. As followers of Christ, we are called to live in peace with each other, and so we must let the peace of Christ rule in us. We need to “dress the part” as we strive to become more like Jesus.
Here’s the thing. Because of our fallen human nature, none of these things comes naturally to us. Years ago, I did a lot of community theater. I played a number of different roles, from a cowboy to a Marine lieutenant to the apostle Peter. Playing these different roles did not come naturally to me. But when I would put on the costume I was to wear for a role I was playing, when I “dressed the part,” I was able to act like a cowboy, or like a Marine lieutenant, or even like the apostle Peter. Why? Because I was putting on the wardrobe of the person whom I was reflecting to the audience. When we put on the wardrobe that Paul describes in Colossians 3, when we “dress the part” by relating to others in the way that Jesus relates to all of us, then we will reflect Jesus to all of those around us.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.