Part Two: Getting Specific Without Being Legalistic

August 21, 2008 at 1:17 am (Articles, Godly Living, Modesty) (, , , , , , )

I had been planning to jump right into the situations in which girls tend to compromise their standards, but being as “tricky” a subject as this is, I’ve decided to make one more post before I get in over my head.

As the title of this post suggests, my goal in dealing with this issue of applying God’s principles for dress to our daily life (including special occasions or activities) is to get specific without being legalistic.

But is that even possible? I had to ask myself that question before I ever began to write this series. I want to tread very lightly on the issue of specifics when it comes to the way we dress. Legalism is a trap and a snare, bringing bondage and either self-condemnation or self-righteousness rather than freedom to enjoy the love and grace of God we’ve received through Christ (see Liberty and the Christian). I know, I’ve been there—I want nothing to do with legalism anymore!

That said, if we only talk in principle (“Be modest and discreet in attitude and dress!”) but don’t get specific (for example, “Dressing to show off your body is a wrong motive,” or “That shirt is rather revealing.”), then we probably end up preaching to the choir, only to hear a hearty “Amen!” from readers who go on wearing things that will trip up their brothers in Christ. I’ve seen it happen. Many a Christian young lady will take up the hip motto, “Modest is Hottest”, while sporting clothing that is hardly an improvement upon the world’s party scene. They look no different. They may not dress like prostitutes, which I guess makes them more modest than some, but they miss the practical application of modesty even though they enthusiastically support the principle.

So can you see how it is important to get specific? That’s really where discipleship and Titus 2 comes in: older women are to instruct the younger women. The best place to deal with specifics is in a discipleship relationship, where challenges can be made and advice offered in a loving way, seeking to build one another up. I’m not much older than most of you—I’m younger than several, to be sure!—but God has convicted me concerning the way I’ve dressed in the past, and He’s given me a desire to communicate the wisdom I’ve gained in this area to help girls make wise decisions in regard to the way they dress—and to do it for the glory of God. So just imagine that I’m a (slightly) older sister in the Lord, who cares deeply about you and your walk with Him (which I do!), and take what I say as loving counsel (which it is) rather than condemnation (which it certainly is not!).

I have been hesitant to begin discussing the specifics because I know that inevitably some will be offended. I pray that this would not be the case, and that is why I have made this post first—so that you know that my intention is not to condemn anyone, nor to set up a standard for you to follow (that’s why I dealt with the Scripture in my last post and asked you to set your own standards based on what God has clearly commanded). My intention is to make you think about things in a way that perhaps you have not considered up to this point; to make you evaluate the way you dress in certain situations, and to challenge you to be consistent with what you believe, no matter the circumstances. That is the heart of this discussion on situational modesty.

So please, take to heart what I have to say in these next few articles, really considering what I share before reacting to it. I ask you to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger,” and remember that “fools despise wisdom and instruction” (James 1:19, Proverbs 1:7). After you have considered what I have to say, please feel free to comment, sharing your thoughts or calling me to account if I have been in the wrong. I will seek to write in such a way as to give grace to those who read (Eph. 4:29), so please take it as such and be gracious in return. Thank you, ladies! I love you in Christ!
part one / part two / part three / part three cont’d / part four
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15 Comments

  1. Trey Edwards said,

    It is truly amazing to me, to find blog after blog after site, after site, of young Christian women encouraging the next generation the meaning and importance of modesty. As a guy, I just want you to know that your efforts, and the efforts of those like you do not go unnoticed. I am very grateful for people like you helping the young Christian girls of this generation to see how immodesty leads young men like me astray. I’d like to encourage you to not feel ashamed to deal with specifics. The Rebelution dealt with specifics with the Modesty Survey, and you have seen what good that has done(I noticed the Modesty Survey ad in your sidebar). If you are uncertain about what type of dress leads men astray, ASK them(the guys). A lot of Christian guys would jump at the chance to aid in helping the Christian ladies learn how to dress modestly.

    worththewaitblog.wordpress.com is a new blog that deals with issues like these, and one of my friends is a contributor on there. I’d suggest taking a look at it, it is wonderful.

    I found this blog through the Rebelution forums. I’ve not had time to read much yet, but what I have read, I have enjoyed. Keep it up!

    Oh, btw, I noticed that you live in Tulsa, OK. I lived there for 4 years, and I went to Grace Bible Church (gracebiblechurchtulsa.org). Wonderful place, church and city!

    ~Trey Edwards~
    http://youthofeternity.wordpress.com

  2. Pearls and Diamonds said,

    GBC IS a great church! 😉 My husband and I have been there for several months now. I think maybe I met some of your family when they came back and visited a month or so ago…do you have 10 siblings????

    Thanks for your comments and encouragement, Trey! I’ll have to check out that worththewaitblog–I think I met the girl who started it on the Rebelution forum. 🙂

    Grace and Peace!
    Lauren

  3. Trey Edwards said,

    haha, yes, I have 10 siblings. That is so awesome/weird! …small world. 😀

  4. Von said,

    I wonder if you are going to get into the area of authority? Many a young woman could make great strides in the area of modesty if they will cheerfully submit to their father or husband in this area.

    Many men are reluctant to address the behavior of the women they are responsible for because of an inevitable backlash. A woman who goes to her authority in full submission, and carrys out his commands without discussion, will find herself much better educated than any amount of discussion between women will produce… not that I am denying the validity of Titus 2, which says:

    4That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

  5. Abigail said,

    Excellent point, Von. I’m not sure what Lauren was planning here, but I was certainly planning to address this in my next post on the subject “Who Dresses You?” I think some discussion between a woman and her authority MIGHT be permissible, depending on her attitude, but her man should certainly be the ultimate authority. We’d like for girls to think about modesty as well, though, since some authorities have low standards (as some of my friends can attest by what their parents actually encourage them to wear). And we’d like girls to strive to be modest in heart and demeanor as well as in clothing, as I’m sure you desire as well (since you mentioned submission).

    We appreciate the discussion–even the challenges. It forces us to constantly reevaluate and not become too comfortable with those things we suppose to be true.

    Blessings in Christ,

    Abigail

  6. LeAnn said,

    Hello Abigail!
    Thanks for leaving a comment on my site. Just out of curiosity, how did you find me?
    To answer you question: what other dreams have I had? Wow…:) well, there have really been too many to name specifically. Most of the time God gives me dreams to tell me to pray for specific people, or about events in the future I should be praying into. Up until now, I haven’t really had a message about a national event; they have all been local; about people I know personally or events in my church.
    I wish I had more time at the moment to read through your blog! I am really impressed by what I see here 🙂 God bless!
    ~NL

  7. Pearls and Diamonds said,

    Thanks for your comment Von. I dealt with the issue of authority somewhat in the first post in applying 1 Pet 3, though I did not make the specific application to clothing. I do plan to continuously reiterate the importance of submitting to the authority God has placed us under, especially as I begin to deal with specifics.

    I discuss clothing with my husband regularly, asking for his opinion and advice. He knows I will submit to him, and I share my thoughts respectfully, so we have no problem discussing things–even addressing areas in which we may have different views. I seek to please him in the way I dress–I delight to! That’s what we want to encourage other girls to do, ultimately. But, like Abigail said, many a young lady does not have guideance in this area–or their parents or husband don’t care or are permissive when it comes to shockingly revealing clothing.

    If you peruse the articles on our site, and read our “disclaimer”, I think you’ll see that submission to God-given authority, be it husband or father, is our main goal and message. We challenge girls to think about what they wear and how they apply God’s word to their lives, but ultimately, yes, they must absolutely listen first to their head rather than us.

    Thanks again for your comment. God bless.
    Lauren

  8. von said,

    But, like Abigail said, many a young lady does not have guideance in this area–or their parents or husband don’t care or are permissive when it comes to shockingly revealing clothing.

    I agree, altho with a couple of caveats:

    1) The lack of guidance is often a result of lack of submission.

    2) I believe that wives especially need to not be ‘more modest than thou’ when it comes to her husband. Her submission needs to not be ‘if I agree with his standards’. An obedient wife ala I Peter 3 will win her husband but not one who is always refusing to obey… even if her non obedience leads her to be more ‘modest’…. at least that is the way I read/interpret it and what I have seen in my experience.

  9. von said,

    1) The lack of guidance is often a result of lack of submission.

    Not that this excuses the lack of guidance/leadership!

  10. Brittany J said,

    Thanks for tackling this subject, Lauren. I look forward to reading more. 🙂

  11. Melissa said,

    Hello! I just finished reading this article and just read Part 1 a moment ago! Thank you for being that “older woman” and guiding the younger. It’s so nice to know that you’re concerned with our needs. Of course, I can go to the elders at my meeting or my Dad for advice (which I have!) but sometimes it’s nice to know other women are tackling these issues of modesty and I can ask your opionion about certain subjects. It’ll be neat to see the next series in this article and I’m looking forward to your article, Abigail, titled “Who Dresses You?”

  12. Sarah said,

    Lauren, thank you for seeking to bring all your thoughts into submission to God’s Word. You are so right about the delicate balance between lovely platitiudes and specific legalism. I once heard a wise man explain it this way:
    -God has given us specific commands and principles which we must obey.
    -We, knowing our own sinful hearts, set up “hedges” even further around the commands and principles to ensure that we are not anywhere close to sinning. (For example, I, knowing that I am NOT a night person, have made a committment to read my Bible in the morning. This is the best time for me, when my mind is the clearest and least cluttered with the cares of the world.)
    -There is NOTHING wrong or sinful or legalistic about these hedges. They are wise ways to make sure that I am obeying my Lord in the best way I can.
    -However, when I make claims that others must live outside my hedges to be holy, I become legalistic.
    So, please, share your personal hedges with us so that we can better fight our own sin. And, thank you so much for not placing your hedges at the level of Biblical revelation.
    Love you!

  13. Renee said,

    I really appreciate you guys talking about modesty, even the specifics. It is encouraging and helpful to me to read about your views on this topic.

    Stay encouraged and blessed!

  14. Part One: Setting Standards and Sticking with Them « Pearls and Diamonds said,

    […] one / part two / part three / part three cont’d / part […]

  15. Ela said,

    This is such a good article. I think that it is very important to I form other women on the issue of modesty while at the same time discouraging legalism. I sure would have loved to have someone tell me that when I first became a Christian. I was so excited to tell people about Jesus but did not realize that my immodest dress was ruining my witness. I think that modesty is a big problem in the church today although we are supposed to be different from the world. And we are supposed to be radically different, not just different “compared to everyone else.” I now know that modesty is a heart issue and not just a dress issue. Thank you for this article. God bless you!

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