by Scarlett Stough
I remember a story from my youth called The Emperor's New Clothes. What I remember is he was fooled into thinking he was dressed splendidly, but was actually quite naked. I had to look it up in my ancient (1951) set of The Book of Knowledge to find out who wrote it and a few more details. The story was written by Hans Christian Andersen.
According to the story two rogues came to the Emperor's city and promised to weave a garment which would be invisible to “anyone who was unfit for the office he held or was too stupid!” But these so-called weavers were busy, but neither the Emperor nor his faithful Minister could see the cloth they supposedly were weaving. But neither could admit they couldn't see it out of fear that others could and they would reveal they were unfit for office.
The Emperor was presented with his “new clothes.” Fooled into thinking he was dressed in a garment he could not see, he paraded in public in his fine new clothes—totally naked. It took a humble child with no office to uphold to loudly declare, “But he has nothing on!”
This humorous story was brought to mind by Jesus' rebuke to the church at Laodicea:
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
Revelation 3:17 ESV
This sad state of affairs is no laughing matter. This is one of the seven churches Jesus is admonishing through John. All of the churches, including every church down through the ages since Pentecost, are instructed: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:22 ESV). Church today, whatever denomination, needs to look in the mirror of the word of God and honestly assess the state of our spiritual wardrobe or lack of it.
Church is made up of individuals. Each individual is accountable to God. If a person is spiritually naked, that nakedness needs to be recognized, and that nakedness remedied. We can't just think, I belong to the “right church” or the “true” church, and think that is enough. Church membership isn't a guarantee of being spiritually right with God. Each one must go to Jesus for the clean, “white garments” only he can provide (Revelation 3:18 ESV).
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
John 5:39-40 ESV
Each one of us needs to listen to “what the Spirit says to the churches,” look in the mirror of God’s word, and admit our need for Jesus. He is knocking at my door, your door, and if we hear, repent, we can once more abide in him (John 15:1-8) and with him for all eternity. Let's not be fooled like the Emperor into thinking we are dressed when we are not.