Wednesday, 16 August 2017
More: A Christian Perspective on Modesty
I am writing today to address the topic of modesty for young women. I have addressed the issue of modesty somewhat when I wrote a post responding to a meme I saw that I did not agree with. (https://made4hisglorysite.wordpress.com/2016/11/02/please-just-stop/) This time, however, I would like to show a more in depth perspective of modesty for the young Christian woman specifically. Some of you who may be reading this might be thinking, “Here we go, another let’s tell women about modesty post.” Perhaps you may even be asking, “Why don’t these Christian bloggers ever address modesty for men?” For those who are thinking the former that this is just another modesty post, I hope you will not dismiss the issue as it will always be an issue as long as the world is fallen, and for those who wonder why the modesty issue is not being addressed for men, there are those who do or have addressed that topic, but for now I will be addressing the young women, as I have had to learn the lesson of modesty myself as a young lady in Christ. I thank you for taking the time to read this, and I pray God uses this blog post to strengthen and encourage you.
Modesty in the modern western world has a reputation of being an old fashioned concept that has stuck around primarily for the religious folk. Ironically, from what I have seen in my experience, those who believe that it is old fashioned still push the concept as the thing “good girls” do when raising their own daughters. Some are moving away from that trend, but many in the secular society still prefer their precious baby girls to hold to some idea of decency through modesty. While this may be the view of the world, as Christians we are to have a different view of modesty in light of God’s grace to us. Unfortunately, do to societal pressures we often have a hard time viewing modesty for what it truly is. Yet, I believe that as long as we are truly striving to be more like Christ we can always capture the true beauty of real modesty.
So what is modesty?
Often when we think of modesty we typically think of clothing styles. Yet, true modesty is more than that. Clothing (though how we dress is important) is actually just a fragment of all modesty entails. For us Christians, modesty is more than clothing. In fact, I believe the first thing we should recognize (as it has helped me) is that modesty has a source. Modesty for the believer is a calling on our lives from God. I am sure that many of you who have been raised with Christian backgrounds are familiar with all of the rhetoric concerning why you should dress modestly according to such and such passage. However, if you are anything like I was then it feels like a burden when you get to see all of your female secular role models, and girls around your age, dressed in ways that would get you in trouble with your God fearing elders. Yet, what helped me was when I began to see that it was not just a matter of some passage of scripture said such and such, but realizing that the scripture is the very word of God, and therefore God is the source, and God’s commands are not burdensome. In fact the commands He has given us are an act of His love, and if we remember that then the things He tells us to do is because He loves us, it makes it easier for us to follow Him.
1 John 5:2
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
Following God seems like a burden in any respect when we forget that love is the driving force behind our Christian walk. God began that love in our lives, by demonstrating His love towards us by suffering and dying for us while we were still sinners. He was willing to sacrifice His life for us to save us. For us Christians we should always strive to remember that love that saved us in times when it feels hardest to follow what He said, including when it comes to modesty. We should think if God can sacrifice His life in love for us, we should be willing to be modest in our walk with Him especially if we say we love Him. So, the source of our modesty is our God who loves us.
The second thing we should note about modesty is that true modesty proceeds from the heart. It is a calling of God on our lives to be modest, but modesty also shows where our hearts are. I can recall times in my life where when I was most rebellious modesty slipped from my hands. I may not have been as immodest as some women of the world, but I definitely was not modest according to the standards of modesty I knew. It is easy for me to claim all sorts of reasons why I chose to not be modest, but in hindsight my lack of modesty really spoke of the time I was at a real struggle in my faith. My mind just was not focused on God, and so modesty was not really something on my mind at all. However, when I look at outfits from times I follow Christ from my heart I always noticed one thing, modesty mattered to me. Even if I did not get it right, I still cared that I did. I realize modesty is not about clothing alone, as I mentioned before, but choosing modest clothing is often a reflection of our faith as Christian women. I can say that at least for myself personally. When I consider what I wear I often ask myself questions such as “Will this intentionally cause men to stumble?” “If I wear this what will this say to people about Christ?” I care about these things, because it is a sin to intentionally cause others to stumble (Matthew 18:6), and how people perceive Christ because of me matters. I do not want to intentionally be the reason people mock God or His people. God gave us modesty as a sign of our dignity in Him.
Those are essentially the two major components of modesty. Modesty is a command from God’s heart, and an act of love for others that proceeds from our hearts.
So how does clothing play into modesty?
As I mentioned earlier clothing is a part of modesty. It is not all there is, but it is important. Clothing ultimately is the reflection of the heart, so the question then becomes “What do we wear?” Now there are some groups of believers who believe women should only where dresses, and some who are okay with pants outfits, others say anything that is at least knee length and unrevealing is acceptable, and the list goes on. So what do we do with a multitude of information?
I think first we need to consider that modest clothing has a cultural aspect to it. What is considered modest can vary from culture to culture, and it is often determined by what is considered sexual or not. Here in the west when we see clothing as modest there is a general agreement that our modesty covers the whole torso. There are places in the world where modesty is a lot less in covering. In fact, I remember learning of a tribe of people that were completely naked, but assigned modesty as making sure the opening of a female’s genitalia was covered when she was sitting down. I personally would not agree with that, and I would argue that that is evidence of how far mankind has fallen, but I digress as that is another topic for another day. So, back to my point there is some cultural aspect to modesty. In the United States, where I live, we can see modesty shift from group to group. Navigating all of these different things seems difficult, but I believe it is best if I come from personal experience when it comes to how I have navigated modesty and perhaps it will help you.
When it came to modesty in my life there seemed to be two sets of modesty; 1) Church modesty, how I should perceive modesty in the church setting and 2) Home and social modesty, how I should perceive modesty in pretty much any setting that was not church.
When I was younger, like most young people, my elders were the primary enforcers of my dress code; and I feel it is important to take note of that first. At the time, my family went to churches where dresses were the standard for girls. I remember I had developed a love hate relationship with dresses, because while dresses were pretty and made me feel just as pretty for a little girl, I was chastised for running around and playing in them. I laugh looking back on it, but at the time it irked me to no end. Yet, when I was not at church I was allowed to wear pants. I liked my pants, because I could play in them without getting in trouble. In the summers I used to even wear shorts. (I stopped wearing shorts when I grew older, because my figure alone was enough to turn those things into a scandal.) I remember most tops were acceptable the only rule was to be careful not to show any cleavage or my midriff. The cleavage rule was easy to follow, but I struggled with the midriff rule because I liked the look of crop tops and belly shirts. (I am not sure if the official name of that style was belly shirts, but I remember that is what we called it when girls tied up their shirts in a knot.) That is how it was for me, a fight against culture that my parents were trying to instill. It wasn’t until after I came to Christ for myself, and started to develop a love for God that I started to look at modesty in a different light. I remember I stopped fighting with the love of the cropped look, but I still had an issue with always wearing dresses to church. Then came the day, I was a teenager at this time, my family started attending a new church and my parents told me I didn’t have to wear dresses if I didn’t want to. I remember I couldn’t put on jeans fast enough for church service. I finally was free to play games with others after service. It was great! Yet, this became what was the first time I entered the world of a morally gray modesty; where my church and social modesty were fused into one. Then there were days when my family visited other churches and they wanted to encourage me to put on dresses again, and I wondered “Why?” I had finally been freed from having to, and that showed me I did not need to where dresses to be engaged in my faith life at church. My parents would try to explain at these other churches they preferred a more formal modesty, and all I could think was I would listen to them, but that to me was just stupid.
It wasn’t until sometime later that I realized the issue of conforming to various modesty styles for different groups was a God honoring thing. While my wearing jeans was not sinful for me, it was a matter of Christian liberty, it could potentially harm the faith of others. In Romans 14 the same issue had already been addressed. While the issue of modesty is not specifically mentioned in that passage, it does call us to not pass judgment on the opinions of those who are different in their thoughts on cultural engagement, which I clearly did by thinking they were “stupid”, and by thinking my wearing jeans was better than their desire for dresses. Instead we are called to do as they would, so that we do not hinder their faith in Christ. I learned I was not better than the dress wearers, and that they were doing what they could to grow in Christ and obey Him just like I was.
That is how I learned the answer to what do I wear. The answer is always whatever is befitting the occasion that will not intentionally cause others to stumble. It is an act of love for all. In doing so I am saying, I care enough about your faith that I place you over my desire to wear certain styles.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
God bless you all in the love of Christ,
About the author:
Lydia Jane is a Christian blogger from the USA. You can follow her blog at https://made4hisglorysite.wordpress.com/
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