My hat experience is stimulating a bit of debate, and as I think Johnny’s Bananaman scenario may be useful I’m gonna use it as an example.
If someone did walk into church dressed as a banana, most people, including me, would have an immediate reaction. However, pausing for a moment to reserve judgment there could be several explanations:
1) Bananaman is a show-off who has come deliberately to disrupt the proceedings. In this case, the perpetrator will cause no end of distraction to other worshippers and the leaders of the gathering would be acting on biblical instruction to tell him to take off the Banana outfit in order to maintain order in the worship (1 Corinthians chapters 11-14 are all seem to be in this vein)
2) Bananaman has a mental illness which coerces him to dress like a banana. In this case, whilst in time the congregation would wish to help him recover from this illness, it would be entirely inappropriate to make him remove his outfit – it would be like telling him to remove his skin.
3) Bananaman has been at an all-night fancy dress party, was walking home and felt an overwhelming presence as he walks by the church. As he is a genuine seeker of truth, he walks in and takes a seat. Because he doesn’t know anything about church and all his mates dress up all the time, he doesn’t think of removing his outfit.
4) Bananaman is dressed as such at the preacher’s request, because the preacher wishes to make the particular point that “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) And having a man dressed as an oversized banana sitting in the middle of the congregation makes that point extremely well.
I know the scenario is unlikely and exaggerated, but sometimes I think extreme examples serve to highlight smaller issues. I think it’s obvious that, regardless of people’s first impressions, there are all manner of explanations for a person’s behaviour, and it’s clear biblically that Christians are called to:
- Be quick to listen, slow to become angry and slow to speak (James 1:19)
- Love their neighbour as they love themselves (Matthew 22:38 – the passage actually suggests we love our neighbours the way we love God)
- Not judge, not condemn, but be quick to forgive (Luke 6:37)
- Not be conformed to the world, but transformed by the renewing of their minds (Rom 12:2)
The Message translation of that last passage says “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.” And the New Living Translation puts it like this: “…but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”
It’s human nature to act on first impressions but I believe the Bible teaches that those first impressions are often fleshly in nature and hence must be nailed to the cross and killed. The guys in my original post didn’t stop to reserve judgment.