Freed to live through the death of another.

Category: Modesty

How Revealing Should a Christian Woman’s Clothes Be?

Question: Just how revealing should a Christian woman’s clothes be? Answer: Very revealing… in fact, Christian women should aim to dress in a manner as revealing as possible.

Of course, what they are revealing should be something other than flesh. Christian women, rather than having ‘covering up my body’ as their goal, should have ‘revealing the gospel’ as their goal when they pick their clothes each morning.

The warmer weather is upon us again and the spring outfits are about to make their return. So I thought I might be able to serve our church by offering a little reminder to Christian women everywhere to pursue modesty for the sake of revealing the gospel.

Here are two truths Christian women can use to connect the gospel to modesty in their attire:
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Male Modesty?

A good friend of mine, whose opinion I respect greatly, has some different views than me on the issue of a woman’s modesty in dress. One of the objections he will bring up in conversations on this issue is that there is no male equivalent; a man’s modest or immodest dress doesn’t affect women.

What he means in this: If I wear an unbuttoned shirt, the effect will be to gross people out and drive them away, rather than cause them to stare… unless they’re staring like people stare at a car wreck on the 401. Either way, I doubt they’re sinning (unless they’re becoming angry at being forced to look on such a sight). The point, however, is this: If men are speaking about what types of guidelines women should have for dress, it is necessarily hypocritical (at least to some degree) because those are issues and standards that don’t apply to us. They are rules that are necessarily other-centred, which just about always will lead to legalism.

I concede his point that my wearing short-shorts won’t cause women to lust, but I disagree with the notion that there is no such thing as male modesty. In Sex is Not the Problem, Lust Is, Joshua Harris writes:

Have you ever interacted with an immodestly dressed girl and really wished she had a clue about how much her clothing affected you? Well, as a guy you need to realize that certain things you do and say to girls are the equivalent of male cleavage–they just aren’t helpful to our sisters. We need to get a clue!

Josh argues that since a woman’s desires are generally more rooted in emotional longings, things like flirting and physical touch–anything that can make a woman feel like she is being pursued or singled out for attention–are potential stumbling blocks for them. A guy who wants to love and protect his sisters in Christ will want to watch his ‘male cleavage’ (an almost disgustingly vivid image, I must say).

Here’s a more extended quote that I think is quite good on this issue. It’s taken from I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

The Guy’s Responsibility
Guys, its time we stood up to defend the honor and righteousness of our sisters. We need to stop acting like “hunters” trying to catch girls and begin seeing ourselves as warriors standing guard over them.

How do we do this? First we must realize that girls don’t struggle with the same temptations we struggle with. We wrestle more with our sex drives while girls struggle more with their emotions. We can help guard their hearts by being sincere and honest in our communication. We need to swear off flirtatiousness and refuse to play games and lead them on. We have to go out of our way to make sure nothing we say or do stirs up inappropriate feelings or expectations.

I want to weep when I think of the many times I have neglected my responsibility to guard girls’ hearts. Instead of playing the role of a warrior, I played the thief, stealing their focus from God for myself. I’m determined to do better. I want to be the kind of friend to whom girls’ future husbands could one day say, “Thank you for standing watch over my wife’s heart. Thank you for guarding her purity.”

Amen! Men, let’s set our sights here to protect the hearts of our sisters.

From Legalism to Licentiousness (and back again…?)

Over the last few Sunday evenings at Grace Fellowship Church, my friend Paul McDonald has been opening up Galatians 5.13 for us. The verse reads like this:

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 

Over the flow of the book of Galatians, the apostle has been arguing that we are now free from bondage to the law and from all forms of legalism. This is fantastic news! For Christians of my generation, I often think that we take our Christian liberty for granted. We haven’t had to fight the battles for allowing women to wear pants, or for instruments other than piano / organ; we haven’t had to deal with the real rabid KJV-only types or the ‘don’t drink, don’t play cards, don’t watch movies’ mentality of the previous generation.

We have our freedom. We enjoy our freedom. But I often think we take it for granted.

The trouble is that when we take our freedom for granted, it’s only a very small step from freedom to licentiousness. Having moved on from legalism, much of our church culture now seems to glory in the fact that there is ‘no law over us,’ so we can do as we wish.

In Galatians 5.13, Paul seems to be saying, ‘Don’t give up your freedom (since that’s why you were set free), but don’t glory in your freedom at the expense of your brothers and sisters.’ Just like everywhere else in the NT, the old, written code is replaced by the law of love.

No one in the early church understood and lived this balance better than the apostle Paul. As he would argue in his epistles to the Corinthians, he had every freedom and every right to take a wife, to eat what he wanted, drink what he wanted, accept payment from them for his ministry, etc. He had those freedoms! But, because he knew that he could better serve his brothers and sisters in love if he denied himself those freedoms, he didn’t take them.

One really practical area where this works itself out in church life (as Paul McDonald taught), is modesty in women’s dress. Just like the apostle Paul, women could rightly declare that they have freedom from outside rules in terms of what they wear. There are no NT regulations on skirt length, sleeve length, how far a blouse should be unbuttoned, etc. But the NT rule that does exist is love and service. Just like the apostle, women who love and seek to serve their brothers (and sisters) in humility, will limit their freedom for the sake of love and wear what is helpful in order to serve.

Of course, once this is understood, this gives opportunity for legalism again, because our flesh hears ‘Serve by dressing modestly’ and applies that to our hearts as ‘Since I (or my wife) dress(es) modestly, we should judge those who don’t.’ We then create a new set of standards to determine what is ‘modest’ and what is not, and measure other people against that criteria. And the circle is then completed: we’ve moved from legalism, to licentiousness, back to legalism again.

So what do we do? Well, first we must work on the log in our own eye. Examining our hearts must take first priority. Do I really believe in Christian freedom? Do I impose standards on people that the Bible doesn’t? Am I looking to things like dress to help ensure that I am justified?

Second, we should seek to apply the love of love. Am I grasping and clinging to my freedom at the expense of hurting brothers and sisters? Is my love of my freedom to dress and act how I wanted prohibiting me from serving? Is giving others occasion for sin (Lk 17.1-2)?

Third, we must remain humble and charitable. Just because the Lord is working on my heart and convicting me of sin in a particular area doesn’t mean that he has to work on other people in the same way at the same time. We need to remember that we didn’t use to know what we’re now convinced of, and apart from a work of grace we never would have known it. We must not use our convictions as a throne from which we can cast judgement on other believers.

Fourth, pray for grace to find the balance. I pray that God would give me grace in every area (not just dress) to find the balance between glorying in my freedom and giving up my freedoms for the sake of my church family. I pray that I would never return either to legalism or licentiousness–but that when I do, that God would forgive me again, just like he always has before.

Do Hard Things… Like Thinking Through Modesty

At a meeting last week we decided that it would be a good idea for the youth of our church to go through the book Do Hard Things by Alex & Brett Harris. It looks awesome, and I’m really excited for our youth to study it. Here’s the thrust of the book:

Combating the idea of adolescence as a vacation from responsibility, the authors weave together biblical insights, history, and modern examples to redefine the teen years as the launching pad of life and map a clear trajectory for long-term fulfillment and eternal impact. 

In preparation for this meeting, I was doing some research on books that the youth could do when I found the website for this book.

It’s great!

They offer all kinds of stuff. There’s info on the book, a blog, info on the conferences they put on, etc. There’s even a study guide that you can download as a pdf to use the book in group contexts, like we want to do.

One of the great things that I found was this: A modesty survey. I was sceptical at first, but it is really useful! I would gladly add it to my list of recommended resources on the modesty issue. I love that they’re tackling this issue with young ladies–again, aiming to ‘set a clear trajectory for long-term fulfillment and eternal impact.’

Here’s what the site says about the survey: ‘Hundreds of Christian girls contributed to the 148-question survey and over 1,600 Christian guys submitted 150,000+ answers, including 25,000 text responses, over a 20-day period in January 2007.’ The different ways you can look at and analyze the results gives some great insight. Take some time and look it through.

‘It has been endorsed by Shaunti Feldhahn (best-selling author of For Women Only), Nancy Leigh DeMoss (author, Revive Our Hearts radio host), Albert Mohler (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), Shannon Ethridge (best-selling author of Every Woman’s Battle series), and C.J. Mahaney (Sovereign Grace Ministries).’

What they (and the guys filling out the survey) hope to affirm to Christian ladies is this:

As a Christian guy with a deep appreciation for feminine modesty, I hereby affirm and commend the following biblical truths to my sisters in Christ:

  • Please, approach the survey as a resource, not a list of rules.
  • Always honour your parents above the results of the survey. (Ephesians 6:1-3)
  • Seek personal feedback on your attire from the godly men and women in your life.
  • Remember, modesty is first and foremost a matter of the heart, not the wardrobe.
  • Faithfully pursue the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. (1 Peter 3:4)
  • Let your good works outshine your outward appearance. (1 Timothy 2:10)
  • Dress for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

What better goals could their be in dressing than honouring parents, esteeming brothers, and desiring the glory of God?

CJ May Be Done…

As I posted before, CJ Mahaney’s blog has been featuring parts of his chapter on modesty from the forthcoming Crossway book called Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World.

You can read the summary post here. It contains an index with links to each of the seven sections and some additional application questions as well. The application questions are broken down into three categories: For your mind, for your heart, and for your life. Go check it out; it will be well worth your time.

While CJ may be done posting on this topic, I thought I’d point out some further resources on modesty of dress and why it is so absolutely important to the Christian walk.

It is my hope that these resources will help you form a biblically informed worldview, which encompasses clothing as a representation of what is going on inside the heart (of both women and men).

CJ on Modesty

There are few Christian authors who can combine real cultural and spiritual insight, genuine love for the gospel, and humility while addressing everyday situations and life issues. One who I love as a preacher and a writer is CJ Mahaney.

CJ is currently through 4 of what will be 7 posts that are excerpts from the forthcoming book Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World (Crossway, Sept. 2008), which CJ is editing. In this series CJ is giving excerpts from his chapter on modesty.

CJ focuses on the heart behind the clothes–which I love! Choice of clothing is like any other decision a person makes: it reveals something about a person’s desires, motivations, etc. Pastorally, there are all kinds of issues surrounding modesty that can be addressed both in guys and girls.

Here’s are a couple of the comments I’ve appreciated so far…

Any biblical discussion of modesty begins by addressing the heart, not the hemline. We must start with the attitude of the modest woman. 

Modesty is humility expressed in dress. It’s a desire to serve others, particularly men, by not promoting or provoking sensuality. 

Immodesty, then, is much more than wearing a short skirt or low-cut top; it’s the act of drawing undue attention to yourself. It’s pride, on display by what you wear.

There’s an inseparable link between your heart and your clothes. Your clothes say something about your attitude. If they don’t express a heart that is humble, that desires to please God, that longs to serve others, that’s modest, that exercises self-control, then change must begin in the heart. 

For modesty is humility expressed in dress.

A woman’s taste for beauty can be an imitation of God’s character, but it can also become corrupted. And such was the case in this first-century church. Paul exhorted the women who professed godliness: “You should not dress in a way that resembles those who are extravagant, or worse, intent on being seductive or sexy. You must not identify with the sinful, worldly culture through your dress.” Paul was writing not to condemn attractive attire but to address its corruption by association with worldly ideals and goals. 

Please know that I don’t write as a self-appointed critic. I am simply a concerned pastor who charitably assumes that most Christian women who dress immodestly are ignorant of the war with lust that men confront on a daily basis. They probably don’t have a clue what goes on in a man’s mind and what effect their bodies have on the eyes and hearts of men young and old. 

But I want no one to be ignorant after reading this chapter. …

And I don’t want you to be ignorant. So go check out CJ’s blog and follow this series as he posts. It will be well worth your while!

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