Who are you to judge another? – James 4:12
It was after the service and she had gone downstairs to use the washroom. She was at the sink washing her hands when three women walked in. As she looked at them through the mirror, the ready smile on her face faded when she saw the expressions on theirs.
“Sister Almeida, we need to talk to you,” one of them said.
After drying her hands, she turned to face them. “Yes.”
“You shouldn’t be wearing braids to church.”
Their words were like missiles striking her. They were members of her husband’s church. It was the Sabbath and it was the first time she had gone with him. She hadn’t wanted to go because she wasn’t an Adventist. She was a Baptist although she hadn’t gone since Joseph and she got married a year ago. His family didn’t approve of their marriage. They had expected him to marry an Adventist woman. When she walked into the church this morning, she had clung to his hand, feeling nervous and apprehensive, not sure of the reception she would get. For the most part, she felt welcomed but on a few occasions she was subjected to disapproving glances.
She liked the Sabbath School program and the praise time and the sermon. Joseph and she had decided that they would stay for the fellowship lunch and the afternoon program. At that moment though, she wanted to leave the washroom but she had to stand her ground. Heart pounding, she replied, “I’m not wearing any makeup and the only pieces of jewelry I have on me are a pair of earrings and my wedding ring.”
“Wedding bands shouldn’t be worn by Adventists. Sister White said that we, and this includes married couples, are to dress plainly, and abstain from display of jewelry and ornaments of every kind is in keeping with our faith.”
“She also said that that ring encircling your finger may be very plain, but it is useless, and the wearing of it has a wrong influence upon others.”
Marlene replied, “Mrs. White also said that in the teaching of the gospel we must always be outspoken regarding the principles of simplicity in dress, but we need not enter into the specific work of saying that individuals [who] wear the wedding ring…are to be disciplined by the church….I have seen very devoted, earnest people wearing the wedding ring, wearing the gold watch, wearing the gold chain, and I felt no burden to say to them, You must lay it off.” She wrote that in response to letter asking if a man wearing a wedding ring should be selected for a church office. With regard to the wedding ring, she left the matter up to the individual. Unless God tells me to remove my ring, I will continue to wear it as a symbol of my love and faithfulness to Joseph.”
There was silence. And then, one of them demanded, “What about the braids?”
“I don’t decorate my braids with jewels, gold adornments, and more to draw attention like the women in Peter’s time. Peter wasn’t saying that women shouldn’t braid their hair but that it should be tastefully done. It’s up to God to tell me not to braid my hair anymore.”
“Didn’t your husband tell you that you ought to dress modestly when you come to our church?”
“What’s wrong with the way I’m dressed?”
“The neckline is too low and the skirt is a bit too short.”
“And your legs are bare. You should be wearing nylons.”
“Thank you so much for your advice. As children of God we are encouraged to teach each other. As it written, iron sharpens iron but at the same time, I would like to arrive at the Holy Spirit’s recommendation for my dressing. Until then, I will continue to apply God’s Word to my life.” Then, she politely and respectfully excused herself and walked out of the washroom. For the rest of the afternoon she tried not to let what happened spoil the rest of the afternoon but she was very relieved when it was finally time to leave.
She waited until they got home before she told Joseph what happened and he was livid. “They should be rejoicing that you’re in church. Whatever happened to not judging others? You just started coming to the church. They can’t expect overnight changes. Besides, as you rightly told them, it should be the Holy Spirit who convict you of any thing in your life that you need to change.”
“I’m not sure I want to go back there again. I think I’m better off worshipping by myself.”
“Honey, if you stop attending church because of what other people said to you, Satan will have you exactly where he wants you. His plan is to divide and conquer. If he can draw you away for the body of Christ, you will be vulnerable to his deceptions and attacks. Don’t let him run you out of the church. Don’t turn your back on what God wants.”
“What does God want?”
“He wants you to attend church regularly so that you can praise and worship Him. Think of the Christians in other parts of the world who can’t worship openly. In China, the government is closing churches, jailing pastors and even rewriting scriptures. Church members are arrested, detained and placed under surveillance. Think about the privileges and freedom you have as a Christian here in North America. Don’t take them for granted. Think about those who would love to be able to worship their God and Creator freely without the threat of having their churches closed down or being arrested. Don’t forsake going to church because of the spirit of disunity.”
By the time they got home, Joseph had convinced her to return with him to church the following week. She went regularly and was baptized on her thirtieth birthday. Before her baptism, she stopped wearing her hair in braids because she felt convicted by the Holy Spirit that it was what God wanted her to do. She stopped wearing all jewelry except her wedding band. A year later, she became the Sabbath school teacher for the Juniors. As for the three women who confronted her in the washroom, she invited them home one Sabbath to have lunch with Joseph and her.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God – 1 John 4:7, ESV