Posts Tagged ‘ Modesty ’
There’s been quite a dust-up over my post on tight jeans & modesty. I have found that whenever a discussion about modesty occurs a few different things invariably seem to happen:
It’s the last two points I wanted to look at here because I think they’re often the ones most misunderstood. When we talk about “weaker brothers” we’re referring to a passage in Romans 14:1-3
1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
What’s often lost when we talk about weaker brothers is the fact that they’re acting weak “in the faith”. That is, what they’re doing is being done in faith with a real desire is to glorify God. There is a tendency to look on these people with eyes a’rolling, frustrated with their spiritual immaturity and temporarily forgetting that it is ALL of the grace of God.
“I’m not going to change my life for some schmo who can’t handle life in the real world.” <— This is a bad thing.
Paul recognized that this response would be a natural one for mature believers who would rather not have their style cramped, so he says “Don’t be like that” in verse 4.
OK, but what about legalism? Even if we can agree that weaker brothers have troubles with immodest clothing, aren’t they just being legalistic (this leads to the burqa argument, one some common that it would occupy the “free” space on the modesty discussion bingo card). We often misunderstand legalism to be “anything above or beyond what I feel like doing.” So if a brother or sister says “Maybe it’s not the best idea in the world to wear the kind of jeans that constantly reveal the color of your underwear” the response is often “Legalist!”
True legalism supposes that the actions taken (say modesty) would serve as a means of justification (Galatians 5:1-3). That’s a false gospel. It’s also a false attack when someone calling for modesty is labeled a legalist. Doing so reveals a lack of understanding for what a legalist truly is and we Reformed folk (especially we Reformed Presbyterian folk) are all about precision when it comes to doctrinal terms.
Remember: Biblically weaker brothers or sisters calling for modesty are doing so in faith to glorify God. Can the same be said for the man or woman who hears this, but chooses their personal desire for fashion, comfort, appeal or whatever else is of greater value? These discussions get turned sideways because we try straining gnats instead of looking to the issues at heart for both sides.
In other news, there’s still time to enter a drawing for a free Ligonier lecture series!
Sorry if this is all too much modesty talk for you, but the subject has been on my mind as I map out my sermon series on 1 Timothy.
Married (or unmarried) men: Were you to be spotted staring at a woman’s posterior (specifically not your wife’s) what would the response be? What would your wife/say or think? What would your brothers and sisters in Christ say or think? Would the response be positive – like “I know right? Check that out!” or would it be cause for concern: “What’re you looking at?” Let me assume it’s the latter. If it’s the former, reconsider who’s holding you accountable.
Married (or unmarried) women: Were you to realize that a Christian man (other than your husband) was admiring your derrière what would your response be? Would you be flattered that some guy was checking you out or would you be embarrassed? Would you meet the man’s eyes and flirtatiously ask if he likes what he sees? Would you act like you didn’t notice and allow him to keep staring? Would you get red in the face with embarrassment and leave the area as quickly and discreetly as possible? If you’re relishing in the attention given you to in such a scenario, may I suggest there may be a heart issue that needs to be corrected.
If you’re with me so far, we’re agreeing that the ogling of a woman’s backside is something that ought not be done by Christian men. It’s something that Christian women likewise should not want to happen. But do the clothes we regularly purchase bite their collective thumbs at this idea?
Enter the Old Navy Booty Reader (bootyreader.com) a new site launched by the clothing company designed to help you find the pair of jeans that will make your backside look as desirable as it can to any eyes that may look upon it. There’s nothing shocking about Old Navy’s approach to jeans. That jeans are designed to make your behind look as appealing as possible is no secret.
Now, if we’re all in agreement that Christian men staring at the bums of the mothers and daughters of the Church is bad, what might be the purpose of purchasing and wearing a product specifically designed to make a part of a woman’s body that’s not for public consumption (or adoration) look as alluring as it possibly can?
Women’s pants have evolved into a temple to glorify an object that men aren’t supposed to be staring at. Consider the evolution of sweats (all of which I’ve actually seen worn in church):
Sweat pants -> Snugger Sweat pants -> Snugger Sweat pants rolled down to or below pelvis -> Snugger Sweat pants rolled down to or below pelvis with words written across the rear -> Snugger Sweat pants rolled down to or below pelvis with words written across the rear (in sparkly, shiny letters). The only thing left is to actually install a neon sign with an arrow pointing to the backside flashing “Check this out!”
So what do you think? Is there value in wearing clothing designed to draw attention towards the parts of our bodies that were intended for the enjoyment (visually and otherwise) of no one but our spouses? Is wearing clothes that draw eyes to “sexual hot-zones” a violation of 1 Timothy 2:9-10?
I think it’s an example of the spirit of the age defining how the faithful live. But maybe I’m wrong. Drop some knowledge on me in the comments section.
Have you ever watched an episode of The Way of the Master? It’s an evangelism/witnessing program. Folks on the street have their “goodness” challenged in comparison to the law of God. Some folks acknowledge that they’re guilty of transgressing God’s law, but not everyone admits that such a transgression means judgment. They seek to justify themselves. The most common way this is done is by comparing their morality with those around them. “I’m guilty, but I’m not as guilty as this guy!”
That’s not how it works. Most followers of the way will point that out. It’s not the standards set by the world or the people around us, it’s what God commands us. And yet when the topic of modest dress comes up, I find many Christian women justifying their attire in the same way. “I’m not dressing as immodestly as that girl!”. Sometimes that’s true, and sadly sometimes it’s false. But is it an acceptable answer or is it not so different from the folks getting grilled on WOTM?
Paul speaks to the Church in 1 Timothy 2 on some inherent issues men and women have. He points out that men have a problem with anger, and that women have a problem with modest dress. So the apostle says that women should “adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire…” (1 Tim. 2:9). But what exactly does “respectable apparel” mean? That’s the sticking point that allows a number of interesting apparel choices to go unchecked in worship services. Respectable attire, in the modern evangelical vernacular means dressing nearly as provocatively as the world, but not quite. Consider a description of immodest dress given in an article by Doug Wilson:
There are three common problems with immodesty in women’s dress – too much, too little, and too tight.
“Too much” is flamboyant or ostentatious – dressing like a hooker. The sin is not avoided if a woman uses “gold, pearls, and costly array” in order to look like a courtesan – a higher class of hooker. In either case, a woman can send immodest signals even when everything is covered. This means that her immodesty consists, not in what she is doing at that moment, but in what she is promising to do later. The language of her clothing states unambiguously that, however much of it there is, it comes off easily enough.
“Too little” means cleavage, vast expanse of thigh, that sort of thing. Women with this problem dress like a sale at J.C. Penney’s – forty percent off. Too often Christians assume that this kind of skin exposure is the only possible “modesty problem.” This is not true, but it remains common nonetheless. This immodesty is compounded by girls who wear short skirts and who do not know how to sit like a lady, showing the world what’s fore and aft.
“Too tight” is the most popular mode of disobedience among modern evangelicals. The whole world is invited to gawk at the topographical evidence concerning exactly where her underwear starts and stops, along with the exact condition, location, and size of her breasts. Many Christian women go to worship today dressed in a manner that would have gotten them thrown out of a bar fifty years ago. Ah, Christian liberty.
So if this is a problem (and it is) is the answer for women to dress in burlap sacks or to for church gatherings to look like a Little House on the Prairie convention? Nah. When Paul speaks to not wearing gold or pearls or costly attire or braiding our hair, he’s not legalistically saying that these things are bad in and of themselves. Rather they’re bad if they’re being used in a manner that does not lead to good works and godliness. So the solution is to ask how we’re glorifying God with what we wear and how our clothes might impact the brothers and sisters around us.
This is something that often just isn’t done. A pair of jeans are purchased and often the only question that was ever considered was whether or not it made the wearer’s butt look good, or big but rarely is there a purpose to wearing a piece of clothing specifically designed to make my posterior look as good as possible to whoever is looking. Should a husband have the right to visually look upon the garden that is his wife? Absolutely. Should I? Not at all and yet all to often Christian women dress in a manner that offers just that. Some of them do it on purpose. Most of them know not what they’re doing, but why would they if they never stop to ask?