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:
1. In the gospel, Jesus gave up his rights & freedoms for the sake of serving
Philippians 2 relates how Jesus had rightful claims to deity and honour, but denied himself, took on humble appearance, and in humble behaviour subjected himself to obedience and servitude for the sake of loving those who were weaker. That’s the essence of the gospel.
In a similar way, Christian women can follow Paul’s example of gladly giving up their freedoms for the sake of serving those who are weaker (2 Cor 9) because it displays the gospel. Just like Jesus didn’t ‘grasp’ to what was rightfully his, Christian women don’t need to fight for their rights to wear whatever they want.
They can reveal their Christlikeness as they give up their rights to wear whatever they want, in deference to others who are weaker.
2. In the gospel, Jesus veiled his glory for the sake of serving
When Jesus took on human flesh, his glory was veiled. It had to be, otherwise we would die. In order to serve us by living a holy life and dying in our place, he had to veil that which was beautiful (for a time, in a context) so that we all might be able to behold the one who is True Beauty in time. For the sake of the gospel he hid what was good for the sake of serving others.
In a similar way, Christian women can veil the beauty of their more intimate parts for the sake of serving those who are weaker because it displays the gospel. We must never think that the call to modesty is a call to cover up because there is something dirty about a woman’s body — nothing could be further from the truth. But just like Jesus didn’t reveal all of his beauty in inappropriate ways, Christian women don’t need to fight for their rights to flaunt their beauty; they can save it for the more appropriate and ultimately God-pleasing context of intimacy that is to come.
They can reveal their Christlikeness as they veil their glory for the sake of serving.
A balancing note
Since the conversation about modesty can often quickly degenerate into quarrels about words and opinions, I wanted to draw our minds back to the word specifically (think 1 Tim 2 and 1 Pet 3). The last thing we ever want to do is add to the word of God and bind peoples’ consciences in ways that the Bible doesn’t.
So what does the New Testament actually say?
What Paul and Peter both emphasize is this:
- Don’t dress like the wealthy / influential / sexually immoral people of your day, since that belies your commitment to Christ rather than the world
- Don’t dress in such a way as draws more attention to your body than your works as a godly woman
- Don’t dress so as to gain standing or approval of people
- In all things, love for God and love for others is the greatest single commandment we have, and needs to inform our clothing choices.
So where are the lines?
I honestly and earnestly mean this with all my heart: If a woman is seeking to carefully obey those four directives, then I think drawing more boundaries than that is unhelpful. Christ commands us to love and gives us his Spirit to discern what that means. The word of God, prayer, and counsel of other believers (along with a healthy dose of self-distrust) are your best friends beyond that.
Those of us who are tempted to draw boundaries and rules for others and condemn others for their freedoms need to remember that to go beyond what is revealed in the Bible would be playing God (aka becoming a pharisee) to bind peoples’ consciences in harmful ways. If we want to be practical about modesty, perhaps the most helpful thing we can do, rather than talking about hemlines, is talking about heart motives. We need to focus on what it means to love, since that is the single greatest commandment of all.
To the bottom line
So how revealing should a Christian woman’s clothing be? It should be very revealing. It should reveal her chastity, her good works, her servant-hearted humility, and her love for others that refuses to make much of self.
But most of all, it should reveal the gospel that saved her and owns her; a gospel that rejoices in the giving up of glory and freedoms for the sake of loving others. A woman’s clothes should — and will — reveal her God.