“Yes, she is a pastor.”
“Oh, really? I never would have guessed that.”
This was the response received in the cabinet section at the local home improvement store. The comment made when my husband advised the sweet lady of my second “vocation.” It wasn’t the first time I had been told this. It was a comment I heard as I got one of my many tattoos. A comment I hear quite often, actually.
This time, I simply smiled. Went about the cabinet selection business with manners and kindness, but on my way home began to wonder, What exactly is a pastor supposed to “look” like?
Since for me the Bible is my standard for living, and the place I turn to for guidance, I looked for Scriptural evidence that pointed to some means of dress or appearance that pastoral staff should adhere to. Some likeness that a pastor should possess. Was it dress? Was it appearance? Was it how they wore their hair? Jewelry? What is it?
First, I went to the reference many use when determining “appropriate” dress for clergy, especially that of women. Now. Let’s be real. We critique the dress of women far more than we ever do men. How their hair is worn. Whether it is long or short. Too much makeup, or not enough. Choice of clothes. Body types. We do not do this to men, or nearly as often. So, here we go:
And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do. 1 Timothy 2:9-10, NLT
However, this is mostly taken out of context, because anytime we use Scripture to make a point, or when trying to determine what God says on a subject, we must also take into account the historical and contextual evidence at the time as well. Paul was not talking to EVERY woman. He was talking to those who were placing their value in material things. In expensive jewels and clothes. It had nothing to do with dress. It had nothing to do with hair.
To clear this up, look at The Message version: And I want women to get in there with the men in humility before God, not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it.
Paul is saying, “Be holy. Do the work of God, and stop worrying about your appearance. You will be beautiful, because you are working for Him, not because you dress a certain way.”
We don’t get this message because we focus on appearance. Our human nature is to focus on what is outside. We focus on hair. We focus on clothes. We focus on jewelry. Someone’s home. Cars. Jobs. And yes, even tattoos.
When what God focuses on…is none of those things.
So what a pastor “looks” like, pours from that-his or her heart.
A pastor looks like Jesus. Not in appearance. Because I look nothing like him in physical appearance. But I do in heart. In action. In speech. In how I love on others. How I work for justice. How I forgive. How I help. How I use my voice.
Because I remember also hearing this when I told someone I had become a pastor: “That doesn’t seem too far-fetched. You were always taking up for the less than when we were younger.”
Back then, I didn’t look much different. My hair was a different shade. It still had the same unruly curls. I had no tattoos. I didn’t dress in the same way as my peers. I wore big earrings. I didn’t speak differently than I do now. I had the same dialect, and at times…well, I was loud. I spoke up with passion that was seen as anger. And, well…I may now have better word choices-but at the core, the personality is still the same. The same hair adorns my head in a different shade. I have tattoos. And my dialect is still strong. My voice still loud, passionate, and dying to be heard when speaking for those whose voices aren’t asked to be at the table. I am still the same young girl, just not ruled by the desires of the world. I still look like her, I just love like Him.
That, my friends, is what a pastor “looks” like.
They “look” like one called to reach the least of these. With the personality and gifts God has created in them. They “look” like their Jesus. With the love to reach those who need to know that they too are loved for who God created them to be. Not who the world thinks they should “look” like.
They may just “look” like me.