Lust: It’s Not Just a Guy Thing

February 20, 2010 at 1:21 am (Articles, Attitudes, Modesty, Purity) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Lauren

Most of the time when we think of lust, we envision someone of the male species taking more than a glance at someone of the female species. But lust is hardly limited to this scenario.

Lust is a strong desire. In our understanding of it, it is a strong desire for something withheld or forbidden. For us ladies, this can rear its ugly head in two very different forms.

The first could be synonymous with “boy craziness”, though it is not as innocent as it sounds. Before I went to high school I had heard that guys talked nasty in their locker rooms. But what came as a shock was that girls did, too, as I discovered while being a part of my high school’s softball team. But should it have been a surprise? Looking back, not really. This kind of thing began in elementary school, when girls would talk about how they wanted to kiss so-and-so, or in middle school when they thought Jonathan Taylor Thomas was so “cute” or “fine”. At some point that seemingly innocent interest in the opposite sex graduates from preschool and jumps straight into “higher education”. Really, it’s sin at every level—it’s lust at every level. It just gives way to more lust, more sin.

The girls who talked about guys in the locker room are not the only ones with a “problem”. Those of us who have enough sense to keep our mouths shut can have just as much filth on the inside. We need to watch over our hearts with all diligence, for from them flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23). If we’re not careful to guard our hearts, they’ll end up polluted and will produce filth rather than beauty. This goes for lusting after marriage as much as it does for a random guy who just walked down the hall. A lust for marriage turns into a lust for the blessings of marriage—emotional and physical. What’s worse is we often pick a guy who we are currently interested in and toy with the idea of marrying him, imagining all that goes along with that. So where does a healthy desire for marriage turn into sinful lust? That’s a tough question. A better one would be: Has my healthy desire for marriage turned into an idol that robs God of the affection He deserves? Have I paid more attention to a certain person I like than to the Lord and those whom He has given me to love already (parents, other family members, my sisters in Christ)? If there is an idol—even if your thoughts are not about sex at all—there’s a problem. And deeper sin is just waiting around the corner. Stop now and turn around. Seek your parents’ counsel and accountability either from them or a wise, trusted friend (keep in mind that friends your age might be wise for their age, but they may not be very helpful to you if they struggle in the same area). Determine what steps need to be taken to remove stumbling blocks. Are you reading romance novels or courtship stories that fuel the fire? Stop reading them. Are you watching movies or TV shows that make you long for your own happily-ever-after? Stop watching them, and keep in mind that TV and movies are very unrealistic. Are some of your friends trying to get “juicy details” out of you rather than encouraging you to guard your heart? Explain your struggle and ask them to stop, and if they don’t you may need to stand up to their taunts or simply distance yourself.

This is tough stuff, isn’t it? Feels like tearing away pieces of yourself, doesn’t it? But that’s what Jesus calls us to do in our fight against sin—and lust in particular.

Matthew 5:27-30 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 “And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 “And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell.

So is it wrong to think someone is attractive or to desire to be married one day? No. But if those thoughts or desires are left unchecked our sinful hearts can take them where we know we shouldn’t go.

As if that weren’t enough already, there is another kind of lust that plagues women—single or married: the lust to have another woman’s body. We face it every time we check out at the grocery store—magazines and tabloids sporting fabulous photos of famous people who have flat stomachs, perfect figures, and pretty faces. I find it much harder to ignore a beautiful woman than whatever guy is the latest definition of “hot”. In fact, marketers know this and use it to their advantage—both men and women are attracted to a beautiful woman. The men want her and women want to be her.

This, again, is a problem of the heart. And we deal with it in much the same way as we dealt with guy-directed lust. What is causing you to stumble? Magazines? TV shows? Movies? Friends who obsess over their appearance (and yours)? Going to the beach? Is your definition of beauty one that is informed by Scripture, or are you chasing after the super-skinny super-models (be they scantily dressed cover-girls or squeezed-into-a-corset Jane Austin heroines)? Renew your mind in God’s word and focus on His beauty. And don’t try to dress “sexy”. This will certainly be a blessing to your brothers in Christ, and it will likely help you to be less focused on looking like a model.

And for better advice and clarity than I can give, check out this article: Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Curves. For a more thorough study of lust, Joshua Harris’ book Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is) does a wonderful job of handling this subject biblically and tastefully.

Fighting lust is a tough battle for both of the sexes. So if you’re a girl that struggles with lust, be encouraged that you’re not alone. And be even more encouraged that God gives us grace to overcome our sins as we depend on Him and renew our hearts and minds in His word.

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Situational Modesty and Upcoming Posts

November 18, 2008 at 9:09 pm (Announcements, Modesty) (, , , , , , , , )

Hello ladies,

Abigail and I are still a little slow when it comes to the meatier articles we intend to write. We hope you’ve enjoyed the more devotional posts we’ve made lately–and the recipes!

I have written and posted about three articles for the series on Situational Modesty, only “diving in” to one situation thus far: swimwear. As I have tried recently to write about other situations I have come up dry. I really think that to appropriately deal with some of the issues we want to address as far as situational modesty is concerned, we need to put a bit more time into developing not only well thought-out articles, but also helpful illustrations and even some fun and more interactive displays of what we mean. So it will most likely be a few months before we move on in the department of situational modesty, perhaps in the spring time when this issue becomes more prominent. To give you a heads-up, the two situations that I have plans for are formal wear and athletic wear. If you can think of any other situations in which you or Christian girls in general are tempted to compromise their standards, please let us know and we will try to examine them as well.

In the mean time, Abigail and I plan to develop articles related to recent issues that have come up in discussion (both online and with local friends), those being the practice of headcovering, women’s roles, and a godly woman’s courage. Abigail’s also got a couple of series in the making focusing on discerning the will of God and on wasted emotions. So stick around! We’ll have plenty of devos, more personal posts, and yummy treats for you to enjoy, as well as a slew of meatier articles that will require more chewing…and a longer cooking time. 😉

Blessings!

laurens-sig1

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You’re a Temple

October 2, 2008 at 1:53 pm (Modesty, Poetry) (, , , , , )

What can I say or do to change your mind?
Your body is not a gift for all mankind.

You’re a temple of the Living God.
Your heart should be His altar stone.
Your life should be the sacrifice
Offered to God alone.

The beauty God gives is not meant to be shared
With each wandering eye by the outfits that you wear.

God clothed His whole temple
In linen and hangings of blue
In velvet and scarlet.
You should be covered, too.

The figure you have is not your light to share.
You will not turn eyes to God by tempting stares.

Your body is a sacred thing
Holy vessels are covered
In reverence and honor,
Because they are beloved.

Keep the abode of God unstained by sin
So the glory of God may be contained within.

You’re a temple of the Living God.
Your heart should be His altar stone.
Your life should be the sacrifice
Offered to God alone.

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Part Three: Diving In! Continued…

August 29, 2008 at 6:26 am (Articles, Godly Living, Modesty) (, , , , , , , )

This is the second half of an article on swimwear within the series on Situational Modesty. To view the first half, click here.

Of Swimsuits and Glory

So, in a practical sense, how does a swimsuit glorify my body rather than God? Or, put another way, what potential problems are there with modern swimwear? I’ll address this in a list (not a list of rules, but things to think about).

  • Swimsuits are almost always skin-tight. No matter how much skin they cover, they tend to show every curve, every crease. In some cases this can be even more provocative than blatant nakedness since the sleek fabric reveals the form of your body without any skin imperfections.
  • Typically, swimsuits show a lot of skin, even one-pieces.
  • Swimsuits are usually low-cut, showing cleavage or hints of it, as well as a lot of skin in the chest and back area.
  • Many girls have to adjust the straps, bottoms, or neck line of even “modest” swimsuits because of their tendency to hike, crawl, and cling, and this draws attention to the areas you’re trying to keep covered.
  • Sometimes even “modest” swimsuits will end up revealing more than you bargained for—wear typical swimwear on a cool day and you could be flirting with disaster.
  • Often times, because swimsuits do not measure up to our day-to-day standards, we end up wearing them with a mind to show off our bodies and get attention—even if our swimsuit is the most “modest” one on the market. (Remember how I selfishly looked forward to wearing my high-necked one-piece and shorts because it was a chance for me to show off my body more than I usually could?)
  • We girls have this nasty habit of comparing ourselves with one another and competing with one another—swimsuits only spur this on because they highlight our bodies, making the pool deck a stage for a beauty (or “sexy”) competition.
  • Swimsuits send a message to those around us about our character. Wearing a flattering, stylish swimsuit with little regard for your brothers in Christ tells others that you are either oblivious or care more about your own reputation than your brother’s purity. In contrast, taking even baby steps to cover up your body out of deference to your brothers, love for your (future) husband, and for the glory of God will show that you care and will gain you respect and gratitude.
  • In general, swimsuits are no better than wearing underwear (two-piece = bra and panties, or undershirt and panties; one-piece = leotard, or corset with straps). In some cases (as with bikinis), underwear would be more modest! I actually saw a girl wearing cotton underwear and a matching cotton cami-style sports bra while swimming at the lake! Interestingly, she was more modest in her underwear than a lot of professing Christian girls are when they go to the beach. My sisters, this simply should not be the case! In the context of this series on situational modesty, based on your own standards for dress, would you ever wear underwear in public? No, you’d be ashamed to! (Hey, now we’ve come full-circle!)
  • In almost every situation, Christian girls compromise their day-to-day standards when they put on a swimsuit. Consider these questions: Would you wear underwear in public? Would you wear skin-tight tops in public? If you wouldn’t wear skirts above the knee elsewhere, why would you wear them for swimming? If you wouldn’t bear your back elsewhere, why do it when you swim? If you wouldn’t wear skin-tight, short shorts for any other reason, why should you change your standards in order to swim (especially in light of the fact that men wear the same type of loose, long shorts that they always wear and swim just fine)? What inconsistencies do you see in your own practice?

Oh Brother!

Now that we’ve considered some of the problems that typical swimsuits cause in general, glorifying our bodies rather than God, let’s take a moment to consider the stumbling block they can be for our brothers in Christ. The following question will tie the last section with this one, and it is central to our discussion of situational modesty: Whatever the situation, is it possible to truly dress to the glory of God while creating stumbling blocks for our brothers? In other words, all excuses and situational justifications aside, are we truly modest and discreet when we wear something that causes a brother to stumble?

In God’s word, we see that He takes very seriously the issue of causing our fellow believers in Christ to stumble—we are to avoid it at all costs, even at the cost of our fashion, fame, or friends—and at the root of this is love. In light of the fact that we are to spur our brothers on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:23-25), we’d do well to carefully consider how we can avoid causing them to stumble and instead look for ways to promote their growth in godliness!

Let me take a moment to stress this fact: We are not to dress modestly to gain favor with God, nor out of duty or self-righteousness or fear. We are to dress modestly and discreetly out of love for God and love for our fellow believers, seeking God’s glory and our brothers’ good!

Now, with that established, I encourage you to check out the Modesty Survey and click on the “Swimsuits” section. Study the statistics and PLEASE take the time to read the comments that guys have left. As you will see from the survey, in general, godly guys do NOT want to see your cleavage, your midsection, your upper thighs, a lot of skin in general, or fabric stretched tightly across your body, showing every curve and fold of skin. I would suggest that, at a minimum, we seek to honor our brothers in these areas. If you do show your cleavage, if you do show your belly, if you do show a lot of leg, if you do show a lot of skin in general, or if you do show your form by wearing something skin-tight, then you are showing off your body at the expense of your brothers’ purity, preferring your own “comfort” or “practicality” or “popularity” or “fashion sense” to their walk with the Lord. Think about it ladies. Die to your own interests and look out for the interests of others. Let’s honor our God by honoring our brothers—men for whom Jesus died!

Consider the following scenario: A young man admires a young lady he knows from church because of her character and love for the Lord. He’s already interested in her, but fighting for purity of heart. At a pool party hosted by a family from church, she wears a “modest” swimsuit that meets her church’s dress code. She’s modest compared to a lot of Christian girls, but very immodest compared to her own everyday dress. The young man falls and falls hard because he sees the outline of her body and considerably more of her skin than he’s ever seen before. His imagination runs wild and the girl that had once been a pure interest and an encouragement has caused her brother (someone’s future husband) to stumble. I’ve asked for the opinion of Christian young men regarding this scenario, and I have found that this is not just a common occurrence—this is typical.

A number of young men, including my husband along with some family members and friends of ours from college, have asked with honest frustration, “Why don’t girls just wear T-shirts and modest shorts to swim in? That would just make everything easier for us!” These guys, like most, swim in shorts. “Why can’t girls do the same?” they ask. And these guys are even willing to wear T-shirts, too, out of fairness to girls. Why do they want both shorts and a T-shirt? Well, for many guys, chests are a big problem—the skin around them and the fabric stretched across them make a godly guy want to look away. So shorts alone won’t do. On the other hand, many guys, and many of the same guys for whom chests are a problem, will have a hard time with a girl who simply wears a dark colored T-shirt over a swimsuit. “It looks like she’s just wearing underwear with the shirt and it’s very suggestive.” Legs can be just as big of a stumbling block as the bust can. Thus, many guys would prefer for girls to just keep both their tops and bottoms covered with a dark colored shirt and shorts.

Granted, not every man shares this opinion, but many guys do. Unless you know exactly where each guy stands who will see you, do you really want to play at odds: “Only four out of ten guys will stumble at what I’m wearing”? And consider the fact that you’d be causing four out of ten guys of ALL ages to stumble. When we talk of tempting our brothers to stumble we usually think of the guys our own age. Lust doesn’t just “go away” in older men, and it starts very young in guys, disturbingly young—in many cases well before the pre-teen years. Jesus warned that whoever caused a little one to stumble might as well have a millstone hung around his neck (or hers) and be thrown into the sea (Matthew 18:6-10). Is your swimsuit going to be your millstone?

Considering all I’ve said in the past two sections, I want to make it clear that we must be careful not to label articles of clothing as “evil”. That misses the point. The point is to be discerning and to seek God’s glory. For example, can I say that bikinis are evil? No, but applying some basic discernment leads me to the conclusion that they (along with many other swimsuits) have no place in public—at least not on Christian girls. Legalism reacts and says bikinis are evil no matter what. Love and discernment respond with reason and say bikinis are not for public consumption, but they can be worn for the glory of God within the context of marriage! I hope that helps you to understand where I’m coming from.

Tips and Creative Obedience

We’ve laid quite the foundation now for determining how best to dress for the pool or beach. Some of you may be shocked at the effect your swimming attire has on your brothers. You may even be wondering if you should swim around them at all! That’s a good thing to discuss with your parents or husband.

Now, as far as getting creative…If you can find a swimsuit (or combination of swimsuit pieces) that is truly consistent with your convictions, great! If you can’t, then I encourage you, with the guidance and practical help of the authority God has placed over you, to seek to create your own swimsuit—tailor made to honor God, your father or husband and your brothers in Christ. Here are some tips when you think about doing your own thing:

  • Watch out for, well, “showing through” your swimsuit top! Wearing a padded bra underneath a T-shirt or whatever top you plan on wearing should take care of this—no matter the temperature outside or in the water!
  • Layer! If you have a nice top you like to swim in that isn’t tight (meaning it may not stay down on your torso), you can keep from exposing your midsection by either wearing a tucked-in camisole or one-piece swimsuit underneath.
  • Leggings or bike shorts are a great way to keep your legs covered when your shorts or skirt may ride up in the water. You can also loosely connect your skirt (or shorts) to the leggings with a loop of thread and a button—this will keep your thighs covered and keep the skirt from floating up when under water!
  • Shop thrift stores for lycra or other water-friendly fabric and colorful prints that you can use to make your own swimsuit that actually fits your convictions.

Here are a few examples of girls that have sought to be consistent with their convictions when in the water:

  • One of my college friends wears a bikini for her husband, but only for her husband. She wears long board shorts and a dark T-shirt to swim in public. She simply doesn’t want to show any more of her body in public—she doesn’t see why she should!
  • Another girl I know has standards that are more conservative than my own. She’s working on making her own swimsuit that includes a skirt, but also has leggings down to her ankles. I’m delighted to see that she’s seeking to honor the Lord by being consistent with what she and her family believe!
  • ModestSwimwearSolutions.comHere are some girls who made their own swimsuits because they didn’t want to compromise their convictions when they swam. They sell swimsuits, swimsuit kits, and patterns (though they’re not cheap)!
  • Abigail and I usually wear T-shirts and shorts. I wanted to come up with something more feminine than just a dark T-shirt and long gym shorts, so I recently bought two skirts at a thrift store, made of swimming-appropriate fabric, one black and one with a tropical floral design. I made the black one into a knee-length skirt that I wear with knee-length bike shorts underneath (covering to the knee being my personal standard). Then, I made the other flowery skirt into a top—it has cap sleeves, a boat neck, and blouses nicely. I wear a camisole underneath, tucked in to my skirt. My goal was to have a swimsuit that I would be comfortable wearing anywhere in public. My husband and I are really happy with the way this project has turned out!
  • Some girls I know are ok with sleeveless tops in their day-to-day dress, so they might wear a long, very conservative tankini swimsuit top and shorts or a skort that also meet their standards, or those of their family.

The results will be somewhat different for different girls and their families. The point here, however, is that wherever you do draw your lines for modest dress, you don’t have to compromise them when you swim. Be consistent! You’re free to pursue creative obedience as long as you are submitted to the authority God has placed over you, seeking to please your father or husband.

I hope you’ve been able to see the heart of this issue more than the specifics mentioned. To sum up, we should embrace the godly sense of shame that compels us to cover up, rejecting the world’s wisdom, so that we can dress to swim for the glory of God, being careful to guard our brother’s purity. And we should first and foremost seek to grow in love for our God and our brothers and sisters in Christ—the love that motivates careful obedience in this area (and in every other part of our lives, as well!).

Grace and Peace!

part one / part two / part three / part three cont’d / part four

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Part Three: Diving In!

August 28, 2008 at 2:39 pm (Articles, Godly Living, Modesty) (, , , , , , , )

I wrote in my previous post (part two) that my goal in these specifics that I am about to bring up is not to “lay down the law” as far as how we dress, but rather I intend to challenge you to think about what you wear in certain situations in light of your day-to-day standards of modesty, which should be based on God’s word (see part one) and be in submission to your God-given authority (father or husband).

So let’s dive right in to the first situation in which many girls are pressured to compromise their standards…swimming. Whether it’s at the beach or at a pool party with your church group or family friends, we need to be thinking about what we wear, seeking to glorify God in it. Now, some of you may not even believe in mixed swimming, and that’s fine—I encourage you to stand firm in that conviction, and I ask that you bear with me as I address the majority of Christians who don’t have a problem with mixed swimming. It’s been a challenge to know where to start since this is a potentially volatile subject, but after much careful consideration and consulting with my husband, I have decided to begin with my own journey…

My Own Story

At the age of 13 or 14 I was given parental permission and even encouragement to wear a two-piece swimsuit, so I went ahead and bought one. It wouldn’t quite qualify as a bikini—it was more like a sports bra with matching bottoms, so many would consider it fairly “modest”. I felt somewhat self-conscious wearing it at first, but my parents thought it was fine and as a result, so did I.

As I grew as a Christian, I began to question what I was doing, seeking to bring everything into submission to my Lord and Savior, so I eventually switched back to my high-necked one-piece swimsuit. I felt much more comfortable in it! And eventually I began wearing board shorts over it, covering some areas that were just a bit awkward to have exposed in public! This was an improvement (I didn’t feel so much like I was wearing underwear for all to see!), and I know the guys around me appreciated it, but I also recognized that even in a “modest” swimsuit, I was still eager to put it on and display my body—not all of my skin, so I was doing better than most—but I could still show off my form. Nevertheless, I continued to wear my one-piece with shorts. That is, until I found out there were other options…

One early summer day, at the end of my senior year of high school, my youth group had a get-together at our youth pastor’s house. They had a pool and, though none of us had come prepared to swim, we decided it would be a fun way to cool off. I ended up borrowing a darker colored T-shirt and some long gym shorts so I could swim. It was at this time that I realized I was the most comfortable when I was covered up! When I sat at the edge of the pool, I didn’t have to worry about my legs or rear being imprinted by the pebbled patio; I didn’t have to adjust my “bottoms” when I stood up; I didn’t have to put on nearly so much sunscreen; I didn’t have to worry about anything of my upper-half showing; and I didn’t have to worry about the inevitable fat rolls on my belly when I sat down. I was free from wondering what everyone else thought about my body—Was I skinny enough? Will they notice my “farmer’s tan”? Do they think I look as good as so-and-so over there? I was free to enjoy my time in the pool with the other girls, and I didn’t have to worry about any of the boys looking at me (whether I wanted them to or not). And the extra fabric, despite what I may have assumed, didn’t seem to slow me down in the water.

After that day, I never went back to a normal swimsuit. I’ve worn dark T-shirts and shorts for over five years now! At one point, when my family and I were preparing to go to the beach, they insisted I wear some kind of swimsuit (something that looked like it belonged on the beach, rather than standing out because it was “tacky”). This was a bit of a difficult situation. I told them I wanted to obey, but that my convictions were such that I would have a hard time going back to a swimsuit. I told them I wanted to find a surfer shirt made for swimming, and they said that would be fine. So I got in the car that day and headed off to a couple of stores, praying that I could find what I was looking for—the only thing that would be a good compromise between what I was most comfortable wearing and what my parents preferred. God answered my prayer and I came home with a made-for-swimming T-shirt that pleased my parents and fit my convictions! I praised the Lord for hearing me and graciously answering!

I share all of that to give you a bit of a background so that you know I’ve “been there, done that” as far as swimsuits are concerned. I’m not sitting here at my computer screaming at girls to cover up, assuming they all should know better. No, it’s not like that at all. There was a time I didn’t know any better. A time in which I flaunted my body and thought it was ok. A time in which I thought I was limited to what the world had to offer in the way of swimwear. But now I know we can do better. And we’re free to do better! Free to reject what our culture calls normal and free to create new options to the glory of God!

But before we get creative, let’s back up a little bit. Remember how we defined modesty as dressing and acting with a “sense of shame”? I want to take you back in time a few years (or in my case, over a decade) to our pre-teen days.

For Shame!

Back in 1997, I went to the end-of-the-year pool party for my sixth grade class. As an out-of-the-loop 12 year-old, I wore the same one-piece I’d worn since I was ten. My good friend and fellow outcast Tyra and I had a good time being, well, goofy girls, splashing in the pool by ourselves. Meanwhile, the more popular girls came giggling out from behind the side of the house. Some of them were already in their swimsuits—most sporting two-pieces of one kind or another. One girl, however, donned a pair of overall shorts over an apparently newly-purchased blue and yellow bikini. Her face was red with a sheepish grin.

By now the girls were in plain view for all to see. And by now the boys had paused their eating and talking about baseball to see what was about to unravel. With the encouragement and nudging of her friends, the bashful girl stepped forward and removed her overalls—and immediately wrapped her arms around her half-naked body! Why did she do this, especially considering the fact that she was already known as being fairly “loose” for a sixth grader?

Somewhere around the age of 12, most little girls become women. And most have some sense of shame about their newly forming bodies. This is natural! And perhaps God-given! A little girl learns almost overnight that she must take care to guard the treasure that has now been entrusted to her—she feels the eyes of people around her, some admiring her body, some more than admiring it, and some scrutinizing every square inch! Her natural reaction is to cover up.

Enter worldly wisdom, stage left. Perceiving a girl’s natural shame, her “more mature” peers and worldly psychologists alike encourage her to be “proud” of her body. Their wisdom would have girls “comfortable” with their bodies, with their sexuality—comfortable enough to flaunt it and eventually throw it away. The world tells us that as women we should take ownership of our bodies, be proud of them, and show them off without shame no matter what anyone else thinks, no matter what harm or discomfort it might cause others. This view is rooted in pride, selfishness, and sensuality. It shows no understanding of healthy, biblical shame, and it rejects a woman’s body as a special treasure created by God. Instead she is made an object and a tool—purportedly to be used for herself, but inevitably used by those around her.

The reality, however, is that most of us in America have bought into this way of thinking in one way or another. Some of us wear things that trip up many of our brothers, and we justify it by saying “It’s my body; I’m free to dress how I want,” or “They’re accountable for their thoughts,” or “I don’t feel convicted about that.” The truth is, we are responsible for our own actions, and if we “don’t feel convicted” about some of the immodest clothing we wear, it’s probably because we’ve bought into the world’s lies about our bodies and the attitude we should have toward them. We’ve allowed our conscience to be seared by the world’s proclamation of what is normal and good and right. Consider this passage in Philippians, chapter 3:

17 Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. 18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (emphasis added)

So, those who are enemies of Christ, who set their minds on earthly things, glory in their shame. Their pride, their glory, is in the very things they ought to be ashamed of. When we set aside the natural shame that should lead us to cover our bodies, and instead “set our minds on earthly things” by buying into the world’s values of pride and self-promotion, we end up glorying in our shame. We boast in and show off what we ought to have covered up! Don’t you see that this has no place in a Christian’s life? In fact, a believer’s heart, in contrast, is set on things above and the day when we will see God’s glory and in which this temporary body, which Paul calls our “humble state” will be transformed into Christ’s likeness. Our bodies have been given to us to glorify God, not so that we can glorify our bodies (which would be equivalent to boasting in our shame). See 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 and Romans 12:1-2. The only time we are supposed to let down our guard is for the one man that God gives us to in marriage—the one man who is commanded to delight in our body as God has created us (Proverbs 5:18-19).

Have you lost the sense of shame you had in your pre- or early teen years? Let’s seek to “renew our minds” in God’s word and with applied wisdom so we will learn to be ashamed of revealing our body to anyone but our husband!

As we continue this discussion on modesty and swimwear in our next post, we’ll get into the specifics and practical application of sticking to our standards in this slippery situation!

part one / part two / part three / part three cont’d / part four

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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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Part One: Setting Standards and Sticking with Them

August 14, 2008 at 6:04 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Modesty) (, , , , , , )

Posted by Lauren

In our last article on this very touchy issue of modesty, we discussed the importance of keeping covered in church—both as an act of humility before God and in order to safeguard our brothers in Christ.

Undoubtedly, most of us dress differently throughout the week than we do on a Sunday morning. And this isn’t wrong—so long as we’re still dressed modestly and femininely (by “femininely” I do not mean “dresses and skirts only”. See comments on Deut. 22:5 below.) The issue of situational modesty is related to situational ethics—that our standard of what is right and what is wrong changes depending upon what situation we find ourselves in.

As believers in Christ, we know that God’s standards of right and wrong never change. A lie is a lie is a lie—no matter how “white” it may be. If we deal honestly with the Scriptures, we know that we can never justify our sin by using our situation as an excuse—we are accountable to God for our own actions.

So what about the practical application of modesty? Do we really seek to be modest and discreet 24/7, or do we compromise our personal or family standards when we attend certain events?

Eventually I’d like to address specific events and situations in which Christian girls are frequently called upon to compromise their modesty, but for now let’s just take a closer look at the clear commands in Scripture by which we are to set standards for ourselves.

Deuteronomy 22:5 “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.”

Clearly, God doesn’t want us to dress like men. This does not teach, however, that skirts and dresses are the only way to achieve that goal, especially since both men and women wore robes at this time in history. It just means that their robes were distinct from one another.

1 Timothy 2:9-10 9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; 10 but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness.

Proper clothing—when was the last time you put something on and asked, Is this proper or fitting for a woman of God to wear? “Proper” may also denote an orderly rather than slovenly appearance.

Modestly—the word really carries the meaning “sense of shame”. This is not to say that a woman should be ashamed of how God has made her, but rather that she has something of value to hide. Modesty is really an attitude of humility that says, “It would be shameful for me to draw attention to myself. What I have, I will keep hidden for the man God has chosen for me. I would be ashamed to do otherwise.” This kind of shame is not at all linked to insecurity—instead it shows great confidence and trust in the Lord. Another thought: “Modest is hottest” is a popular slogan among Christian girls today, but does it reflect a godly attitude? Does it make much sense when we think about the fact that a truly modest girl isn’t trying to be “hot”?

Discreetly—to be discreet is to be discerning and self-controlled. This is more closely related to the way we use the term “modesty” today. To be self-controlled when it comes to outward appearance means that we do not allow the world to sway us, telling us what to wear and how to act. Instead, we determine to honor God in the way we dress and set standards for ourselves in order to protect our brothers—and we don’t compromise those standards. We are self-controlled enough to stand firm. This understanding is foundational to breaking free from the trap of situational modesty.

Braided hair—most scholars agree that this is not talking about braids as we think of them today. It is better understood to mean elaborate hairdos that attract attention. These should be avoided as they do not reflect a modest heart.

Gold or pearls—similarly, we should avoid extravagant jewelry. Keep it simple. Don’t try to look like a rich, old lady. Jewelry can be a great way to look feminine, but don’t wear jewelry that gets attention or that makes you look wealthy, upper-class, or like a celebrity.

Costly garments—again, we are not to dress to impress. The emphasis is not just on how much you paid for something, though that is important to consider. What this really means is that we should not try to “look like a million bucks.” Does your appearance tell others that you’re willing to fork over a lot of money to look a certain way? Does it tell others that you are trying to look “higher class” than them? We are to be dignified, but never ritzy. Perhaps this should be our attitude: “I’d rather nicely dress down so as not to alienate or discourage my sisters in Christ who are unable to dress up. I have the freedom to dress up, but I will limit myself so that I can reach and serve the poor.”

But rather by means of good works—so, instead of trying to look fancy and wealthy, we are to focus on adorning ourselves with good works. The heart of a godly woman is that of a servant. This is far more important than any form of outward adornment. A good question to ask is this: Am I willing and ready to serve? Does what I wear prevent me from serving others? If we have our hair perfectly set and wear costly garments and a bunch of bling, odds are we aren’t interested in serving—after all, we might mess up our hair and dirty our pretty dress or break a nail, or we might sweat and get our pretty jewelry all grungy, or scuff up our fancy shoes. Do you see how Paul’s discussion of what we are to avoid is naturally in opposition to good works? That is why he transitions using the phrase “but rather.” It’s difficult to be a true servant, dedicated to good works, when you are extravagant in your dress and invest much time and money in it. Let your reputation be based on what you do, not on what you wear (see 1 Timothy 5:9-10 for the kind of reputation we should pursue).

1 Peter 3:3-5 3 And let not your adornment be merely external– braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.

This passage parallels the 1 Timothy passage above. Peter has the same warnings as Paul, and he contrasts them with both the heart and lifestyle of a godly woman.

Gentle and quiet spirit—we are to be gentle rather than harsh, and our spirit is to be quiet or tranquil. This really means that we are not easily moved, that circumstances do not phase us. The godly woman has such a spirit of trust and confidence in her God, that she is not easily shaken nor offended. And this is an imperishable quality—one that God highly values!

Submissive—from this passage we see that a gentle and quiet spirit on the inside results in a lifestyle of submission on the outside. The godly woman is too interested in honoring her Lord by honoring her man to be preoccupied with having an extravagant appearance.

Those are the three main passages that contain commands concerning women’s dress. There’s a lot there to think about! The beauty of these passages is that they address both the outward physical appearance as well as the heart and character of a woman who follows Jesus Christ. That fact in itself is very telling: we cannot separate the heart and character from the outward appearance. We can’t say, “It’s the heart that matters” and then neglect the practical commands that apply to what’s on the outside. Nor can we dress “by the book” and think we have done well without cultivating true Christian character.

I challenge you to consider your standards in light of these passages and their implications. Talk with your parents or husband about them. Determine what practical guidelines you will set for yourself so as to obey both the letter and spirit of these commands. And then be thinking about the questions I raised earlier: Do you compromise your personal or family standards when you attend certain events or participate in certain activities? In the next couple of modesty articles, we’ll focus on several of the most common situations in which compromise has become the norm.

part one / part two / part three / part three cont’d / part four

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Version of the Bible. Terms are defined with the help of Strong’s concordance and Greek dictionary.

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Sunday Best

July 16, 2008 at 5:05 pm (Articles, Godly Living, Modesty) (, , , )

It’s 7:30 on a Sunday morning. You roll out of bed and stumble to the closet to pick out your cutest clean outfit (that you haven’t worn for at least a month) to wear to church. This is an important and godly thing to do, of course, since you know that you are supposed to show up in your “Sunday best”—for God. Generally, the only thing weighing on your mind is that you have this oh-so-important responsibility to look good—for God. So you pick out a very cute, very colorful summer dress. All the other girls will be so impressed that you would wear such a nice-looking, stylish article of clothing—for God.

If that resembles your typical Sunday morning routine, you may be missing the point in your preparations to go and worship God with His people.

Jesus condemned the Pharisees for putting aside the command of God for the sake of their traditions (Matthew 15:1-9). Do we do the same when it comes to modesty and dressing for church? There is nothing wrong with the tradition of dressing nicely for church. But it isn’t commanded in God’s word. It is a tradition of men. So when that becomes our foremost goal on a Sunday morning to the neglect of the clear command to dress modestly and discreetly (1 Tim 2:9-10), are we not doing the very thing that God hated to see the Pharisees do?

In our “dressing up for God” do we cause our Christian brothers to stumble? Do we show even more skin in church than we do at school? If anything, we ought to be even more considerate when gathering with God’s people to worship Him. Our goal should be to attract as little attention to ourselves as possible! We want our brothers to worship God, not our bodies! Think about it, ladies. Why wear anything that could possibly cause a brother in Christ to stumble? This should be our heart’s priority at all times, but perhaps even more so when we come together as the body of Christ.

Another thing to think about is the fact that when you pray with other believers in a church meeting, you are coming together before the throne of grace—which we are to do confidently, but also with reverence and humility (Hebrews 4:16, Isaiah 66:2, James 4:6, 10). We aren’t to dress to impress—God is not impressed with our styles, He looks at our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). If anything, we should recognize who our God is, and out of reverence and humility, see to it that our bodies are well covered.

Shouldn’t our “Sunday best” refer to our best efforts to please God and care for our brothers in the way we dress?

Check out this modesty survey to find out what specific items of clothing might cause a brother to stumble. The survey doesn’t contain any rules, but it does allow you to get feedback from Christian guys so that you can be informed enough to make wise decisions.

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Inside and Out

July 7, 2008 at 8:30 am (Articles, Godly Living, Modesty) (, , )

This morning I washed windows. The outside, of course. Proudly I surveyed my work, expecting an aura of beauty to emanate from the “clean” glass. Instead I noticed smudges, smears and spider webs—on the inside.

When it comes down to the topic of modesty, we grope for specifics, details, style revues, check-lists. “Wouldn’t it have been nice if the Bible came complete with Simplicity patterns?” one friend asked me. But a law can never express modesty, since every law can be circumvented by obedience to the letter, not the spirit.

I’ll never forget a Mennonite wedding I attended. During a quick pit-stop in the ladies restroom, one girl caught my eye. Dressed to the T as every Mennonite girl should be—long sleeved dress, buttoned up the front to her proper collar, belted tightly around the middle, her hair tucked up into a black skull cap—she primped in front of the mirror. She was tugging the front of her hair, puffing it up so that as much as possible showed around her pretty face. And her dress! I’d never seen anything like it. Sure, it was the exact same pattern every other girl was wearing. But it was leopard print! I’d never experienced leopard print and Mennonite in the same room before. When she finally finished and made her way out of the bathroom it was with a mincing, swinging gait and a gaze that scanned the full room as if measuring every other girl present.

The home school Forensics league I was a part of during high school had a dress code, too—for the sake of modesty and professionalism. One of my friends always wore a hot pink suit—on par with dress code, of course. Modest, by the letter of the law. When her name as “Hot Pink Suit Girl” became well established, she confided that she was thinking of switching to an electric blue suit. “Just to shock people,” she said. “The pink suit—well, everyone’s used to it now.” At one tournament she washed her almost-black hair a bleach blonde and delighted in the stir she caused. “I tried squirt-in blond highlights,” she told me another time, in disappointment. “But no one really noticed.”

Certainly there’s nothing wrong with leopard print. Or hot pink. Or blond hair. And yet, something is wrong with these pictures. Terribly wrong. These girls both conformed to all the rules of modest attire placed upon them. Their demeanor trumped their dress. Their goal was to stand out from the crowd. To be noticed. To make waves. To turn heads. Their attitude screamed, “I want attention!”

Both claimed to be advocates for modesty.

Have we boiled modesty down to a checklist for clothing?

When it comes to the nitty-gritty reality of godly living, having an imaginary line across my chest or wearing skirts past my knees is easy, but modesty is much fuller than the idea of “covering what needs to be covered.” At its root, modesty is moderation, humility, lack of pretension, not seeking to put itself forward or demand attention. Even dressing to conceal can become a point of self-righteousness, meant to point out how holy or devoted to God I am—because I dress modestly. As Lauren said, the motive of our dress should be the glory of God. To dress for the glory of God, we must first desire to see Him glorified—while we are diminished. We must pray that He would increase, while we decrease. We must be not only willing, but eager to be eclipsed by His beauty. Modest apparel flows naturally from a modest heart.

Jesus rained down a fiery sermon on the hypocrites of His day who sought to appear righteous on the outside, for the praise of men. “You blind Pharisees! First clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.” (Matthew 23:26)

As you are reassessing your wardrobe, reassess your heart. As you are washing the outside of the windows, be sure to wash the inside first so that when you are finished the light may flow through unhindered by smears or cobwebs on the inside or the outside.

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Making First Impressions a First Priority

July 3, 2008 at 12:38 am (Articles, Godly Living, Modesty) (, , , )

I’ve had many discussions on the subject of modesty lately, including one with a mother of teenage daughters who has asked if we would address the issue of modesty on this blog. We have links to other sites that are helpful on this subject, but still there are questions concerning the practical application of modesty—and what it looks like. In this article, I’ll just touch the tip of the iceberg by addressing the importance of dressing for God’s glory and not our own.

Judging. Stereotyping. It’s what we do. When we notice someone walking into a room, we immediately begin to categorize them, making assumptions as to what kind of person they are. We classify them based on their dress, their body language, their facial expression, the amount of noise they make. Perhaps it would be helpful to avoid this kind of thinking, but we do it none the less.

Now think about it on the flip side—YOU are the one walking into the room. What does your “first impression” (your appearance, the way you carry yourself) tell others about your character? The mindset today is that clothing is a form of self-expression. So what are you expressing? Does your clothing scream “look at me!” or does it display the qualities of godly character you possess and are pursuing—purity, confidence in the Lord, a readiness to serve, and gentleness and reverence to name a few?

Do you make heads turn when you enter a room because you are trying to look like a model (whether you succeed or not)? Or do they stare because you dress purposely out of touch with the culture so that you’ll feel more holy? I’ve been there—on both ends of the fashion (or non-fashion) spectrum.

A Christian woman should be neither an eye-sore nor eye candy. When we place as our primary goal either conformity or nonconformity, we have missed the target completely. Our ultimate goal in everything is to point to our great God and Savior (1 Corinthians 10:31)—and in our clothing, as Christian women, this means we desire to reflect both His beauty and His purity. We are to be an adornment to the gospel of God—making Him the good news we deliver by our appearance rather than promoting ourselves.

So are first impressions really that important? To a daughter of the King, given the privilege and responsibility of representing Him to a lost world, you bet they are!


Much more to come…

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