Are robes of righteousness mass-produced or are they tailor-made?
The Bible contains many references to the robe of righteousness given to every believer by grace through faith. For each and every believer, this robe is a borrowed article, bought by the perfect life of Christ and given freely to any and all who look to Him and His life, death and resurrection.
The robe of righteousness is a symbol of right-standing before God. As seen in the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22, one cannot come to the great wedding supper of the lamb if clothed improperly. However, the gracious host, who sent his messengers into the highways and byways to fill up his happy hall, did not expect or anticipate his ragtag guests having the proper attire; quite the contrary, our gregarious and generous God knew that we could never acquire a robe of righteousness fitting to the banquet of His perfect Holiness.
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. Isaiah 64:6.
He effectively calls His guests; He graciously greets His guests; He perfectly dresses His guests with borrowed robes of righteousness fitting to His perfect presence.
I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices with my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness…Isaiah 61:10.
Every believer has been proverbially clothed with an undeserved, borrowed robe of righteousness taken from the infinite closet of the perfect brother Christ. But are these robes one-size-fits-all?
Having been raised in a society of mass production that values efficiency, my mind naturally runs to the image of a robe of righteousness factory, where generic robes are being cranked out at a rapid rate. Same pattern, same cut, same size.
My soul cringes at the thought of such mass-produced, universal, generic righteousness. Luckily, the Bible gives us plenty of reason to believe that our God is one who is multi-faceted and multi-colored, one who relishes diversity and nuance in all His creation.
Of course, every robe of righteousness must be cut from the infinite, pure bolt of the righteousness of Christ, as no other material could ever do, even if it is existed.
In that manner, every Christian should share the same familiar fragrance of the aroma of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:15). Our robes of righteousness must have some essential qualities about them, for they all originate from the same source. We should expect the same fragrance of the fruits of Spirit to emit from the lives of all believers (Galatians 5). We should expect strong family resemblance in the family of Christ.
Yet at the same time, we should expect an infinite variety of sanctified souls donning their borrowed robes of righteousness. After all, our God is the designer of intricate and infinite snowflake designs, fingerprints and faces. He has seen fit that the writers of the Bible included countless references to unity that coexists with incredible diversity (the body of Christ and the living stones being built into a Temple).
Rather than an industrial factory mass producing one-size-fits-all robes, a more Biblically-based image would be that of an expert tailor hand-making robes that are perfectly cut for each. Even if there are different patterns He may follow (broad personality models, gift sets, vocations), when clothing and sanctifying souls, it seems that the patterns would fall differently and uniquely on each of His children.
In his book The Pastor Eugene Peterson quotes one of his pastoral heroes as saying that “there are no dittos in souls.” If there are no dittos, no carbon copies of souls, I think it is safe to say that the righteousness of Christ will fit us all differently while still drawing a striking family resemblance.
I keep looking around me, searching in books and blogs for the perfect pattern, the perfect mentor or hero who will show me exactly what sanctification and holiness and pursuing God will look like for me. This has continually proven a futile attempt. While it is right to look for models to follow, principles to glean, heroes to imitate, paths to God that are worn by others, we must be careful to not forget that God intends that we wear our robes of righteousness as only we can. He desires us to be the sanctified versions of ourselves, proudly donning our borrowed robes of righteousness.
As we each learn to let the scarred hands of our tailor custom cut His perfect righteousness and likeness into our lives and personalities here on earth, may we become a beautiful family of incredible diversity, pointing back to the infinite closet of our Christ.