The argument goes something like this: The Bible says that where two or three are gathered there is Jesus in the midst of them (Matt 18:20). That indicates that a gathering of two or three includes the very important presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. People wear their best clothes when they meet someone Important (like if one had a meeting with the President). This indicates that the esteem put on the person justifies the better clothing. Christ is more Important than anyone and to be greater esteemed. Therefore, when going to any meeting of the church a person should wear their best clothes.
Misuse of the verse aside (since we all know that the context of the verse has nothing to do with the local church meeting but with the correction of a person who has sinned against another), does the argument hold together? Firstly, I don’t think some of the statements are completely factual and secondly if the argument is sound I don’t think the conclusion is restrictive enough. I’ll talk about the second point first.
Assuming that all the statements before the conclusion are accurate I don’t think we can honestly limit the dressing up to the meeting of the church. The (mis)use of Christ’s words would seem to indicate two or three believers from anywhere: which would mean even in the household. So if the husband is a believer and the wife is a believer there is an example of two gathered: Christ is with them. Since we dress up for important people who we esteem and we think Christ is important and to be greatly esteemed, then it follows that in the home we should wear our best clothes, shoes and all. In fact, we’d probably have to go to bed with the same outfit (if we allow that its okay for us to sleep in front of someone who is Important and Greatly Esteemed).
It does seem pretty silly when we see that outworking and I don’t think even the most restrictive fundamentalist would go there (although he or she might say that this applies on Sunday where I heard one man proudly say that he’d wear his tie and suit the entire day).
So where else does the argument go wrong?
Well, People don’t only wear their best clothes when they meet someone important since they also wear their best clothes when they want to impress (ie: a date) or to ensure that they’re not seen in a bad light (ie: by a potential boss) or to stand out from the crowd (which is practically Impress) or even to fit into a crowd (ie: employees of an Ad Agency). In other words, if I were to meet the president, I wouldn’t dress up so much because he was important or even because I wanted him to be impressed but because I didn’t want him thinking less of me or because I wanted to fit in with anyone else meeting him.
With those things in mind I can think of several immediate reasons why someone would want to dress up for church to Meet Christ (and allow for not-dressing-up in the home). 1) To Impress Christ; 2) Because they don’t want to be thought less of by Christ; 3) Because they want to fit in with the crowd of like-dressing individuals who are meeting Christ.
Here I think we see every statement imploding. No one is going to be able to impress Christ–he’s seen the worst in man and guess what: it’s even in those who dress nicely or wash their hands before eating (Matt 15:11). No one is going to be thought less of by Christ since His mission resulted in the ultimate sacrifice for weak, sinful people (Rom 5:8). No one fits into the crowd of like-dressing individuals when this is the same person that is said to dwell in Us and know what is in the hearts of people (John 2:25).