Somebody once told my associate pastor that I “don’t look like a preacher.” I’m not sure what that means. Did she say that because I have a beard or because I like to wear my blue jeans and baseball cap around town on my day off? Did she say that because I don’t have some stereotypical kind of stern or “holy” expression? I don’t know. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to look like a preacher. At least not until I heard Dr. Laurence White.
Dr. Laurence L. White, Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas, was speaking to the Washington Briefing for Pastors, sponsored by the Family Research Council. He stood up in his black clothes and white clerical collar, and looked over the crowd, most of whom were wearing business suits, and said, “I want to say something to you Baptists who have forsaken the traditional garb of the clergy, that there are some advantages to looking like clergy.” Then he told this story:
Rev. White was late for a speaking engagement in Georgia, and was driving way too fast, when he saw blue lights flashing in his rear-view mirror. He pulled over, and the state trooper pulled in behind him. A big man got out of the patrol car, pulled his belt up around his waist, and walked toward Rev. White’s car, his hand on his gun.
When the trooper looked in the car and saw Rev. White, with his black coat and shirt, and white clerical collar, he started to laugh. Rev. White thought, “Oh, no. He’s a Baptist deacon. I’m going to jail.”
But instead, the trooper leaned in, pointed his finger in Rev. White’s face, and said, “Forgive me, father, but you have sinned!” Then he gestured down the road with his hands wide open, and said, “Now go, and sin no more!”
So there can be advantages to looking like a preacher (or priest).
The Bible says there is a clothing that all of us can wear that is greatly to our advantage. Job said, “I clothed myself in righteousness” (Job 29:14, HCSB). The apostle Paul tells us what that should look like: “Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love – the perfect bond of unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14, HCSB).
So a clerical collar can be good and useful, but righteousness is even better.
(Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Read this column each Friday in the Herald. Visit my blog at www.bobrogers.me.)