The Emporer’s new clothes


Hans Christian Anderson’s story (the brief version) goes like this:

The Emperor’s new clothes were the talk of the town. The weavers (swindlers who spun tales, not cloth) showed them to the Emperor and  his court–lifting up their arms as if holding something and describing the splendor of each article of clothing. “The whole suit is as light as a spider’s web,” the weavers declared. “You might feel as if you are wearing nothing, but that is just the beauty of the cloth.”

“Magnificent,” cried the distinguished ministers of  the court, but they could see nothing at all because there was nothing to be seen.

“Now if your majesty would just remove his old clothes, we can fit on the new ones,” said the weavers. And he did, turning from side to side as he admired himself in the mirror.

“How well they fit. How splendid Your Majesty’s robes look–what gorgeous colors!” they all said. And the great procession before all the people began. The courtiers felt about on the ground for the train, finally pretending to solemnly lift and carry it. Nothing would have persuaded them to admit they couldn’t see it for fear they would be thought stupid or unfit for their posts.

The crowds cheered their approval, until a small child said, “But he hasn’t got anything on.” This simple sentence took hold and echoed through the crowd until the emperor himself heard the whispers.  He  thought uncomfortably that perhaps the crowd’s conjectures were true, but dismissed the idea: “I will go through with the procession.”

So he drew himself up and walked boldly on holding his head high as the courtiers held onto the train that wasn’t there.

Many years separated from my childhood, I understand our ability to fool ourselves as individuals, as communities, as church, as nations … We parade around in our own skewed belief that we are clothed, when we have access to true sight.

Listen now, you who know right from wrong, you who hold my teaching inside you: Pay no attention to insults, and when mocked don’t let it get you down. Those insults and mockeries are moth-eaten, from brains that are termite-ridden, But my setting-things-right lasts,  my salvation goes on and on and on. Isaiah 52: 7-8 (The Message)

Look in the God’s mirror  and look through the eyes He gives you. You are barraged by so many voices telling you who you are, who you should be, who you aren’t, who is cool, who is not, …

The Lord calls us to clothe ourselves in the beautiful garments that he has given us, to partake of his strengths, and yet we don’t. Read the whole chapter of Isaiah 52–it can be applied to many of us individually as well as to groups. We can wear the splendid clothes he has for us, yet we choose to believe those weavers of imaginary cloth and parade around with nothing on.

Wake up to the truth. Open your eyes and see the truth as a child sees is. It is crucial to be honest with yourself about who you are and why you are that way. This kind of honesty–agreeing with God about our faults and acknowledging our failings–means understanding where we are in the light of His standard. When we understand where we are broken and where we fall short, we can work with God to reclaim those lost parts of his image, to clothe ourselves in his standards, and experience healing where our clothes have been soiled, torn, or nonexistent.

What are you wearing?

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