Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Modesty Is Not a Dress Code

Have you ever heard the cliché, “You can’t judge a book by its cover”? When it comes to apologetics, we have often exposed how clichés are only effective to a limited extent. Clichés can’t fully inform a philosophical or theological position. For example, if you can’t judge a book by its cover, what about a book that has a literal photograph of a naked person fully exposing themselves on its cover? What if a book cover displayed a picture of Jesus as a murderer? Sure, even in these two extreme examples, you can’t fully judge the book. But, you can judge the cover. And the cover does say something about the book. And, so it is with modesty.

In today’s culture, so many Christians wander around displaying aimless values. Many of us live and dress with an “anything goes” attitude. Much of this is borne of a confusion regarding God's grace. Too many Christians have the attitude that grace is something to take advantage of. We act as if we have been given unlimited vouchers to behave badly and we should enjoy cashing them in at Christ’s expense. So, we behave as if it doesn’t matter what you do because grace covers it all. While that may be technically true regarding the far reaches of grace, that attitude and the indiscretions that result are far from the mind of Christ - they are precisely the actions that caused His brutal wounding. Taking grace for granted is the opposite of wisdom – at least the brand of wisdom that begins with fearing God. And, Jesus who was crucified for your indiscretions, is God. Sadly, many of these Christians are learning this Christian brand of hedonism from their churches. I recently read an article by one of the current generation of “relevant” pastors who even argued that modesty has nothing to do with what we wear. And, he used (or abused) scripture to make his point. Does that make sense to anyone? More importantly, does that make sense to God?

In addition to an ill-informed attitude about grace, much of our poor living is also due to our values not beginning reborn in our attitudes before flowing outward. There is probably no more clear example of this than our poor living testimony of modesty or the lack thereof. Modesty is first and foremost an attitude. And, that inward attitude is displayed in what we do outwardly in clothing, hygiene, speech, etc. In fact, the Dictionary definition of “Modest” is as follows (read carefully): Having or showing a moderate or humble estimate of one's merits, importance, etc.; free from vanity, egotism, boastfulness, or great pretensions. Having or showing regard for the decencies of behavior, speech, dress, etc.; decent. Therefore, if you have a modest attitude, it will be reflected in a modest outward expression. And, yes, that means your clothing will reflect your inward attitude about modesty 100% of the time. Others (especially God) observing your garb and actions will come to one of three conclusions: 1) you are modest, 2) you are not modest, or 3) you don’t care. Hint: the last two are unacceptable for those who have been crucified with Christ and are led by the Holy Spirit. In fact, number 3) is just another form of number 2). The truth is that an action in question is either modest or it is not.

For those Christians who disagree or think that lack of decent clothing is acceptable, listen to what God says. 1 Peter 3:3-4 says, “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.” It begins with attitude. And, 1 Timothy 2:9-10 says, “likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” This passage was abused in the aforementioned article to exempt sexually revealing clothes as they were not specifically mentioned – such interpretation is as distorted as the immodesty that results. And, Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Our actions are to display a healthy fear of God, not display inklings of depravity. 1 Peter 5:5 says, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” Our clothing should be humble – and so should our attitudes. Are you having trouble applying these verses in today’s culture? Let’s try together.

Is a bikini modest? Of course not, except in privacy with your husband. It is morally absurd that this question is even asked. What makes you think that just another form of what otherwise resembles underwear or strips of body paint is to the least degree modest? Then again, is even a one-piece bathing suit modest? Probably not as still not much is left to the sexual imagination. For example, why is it acceptable for some people to swim with a shirt on, but not others? Why is it acceptable for men to wear trunks but not women? Why are tan lines so important? Is the attempt to diminish tan lines an act of modesty or the opposite? For whom are you seeking to diminish tan lines on parts of your body closest to your genitalia? Would Jesus approve of a bikini or a tight men’s Speedo? Can you imagine Jesus or His mother wearing these? Would Jesus approve of a skin-tight anything? Are you so naïve as to believe that skin-tight clothing does not draw sexual attention? Did Jesus ever dress in a manner that drew attention to himself? In fact Isaiah 53:2 said of Jesus, “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” To dress modestly means to dress in a way that does not draw attention to yourself inappropriately. Drawing attention is the exact opposite of attitudinal modesty. And, inward modesty is always expressed outwardly. It is never expressed inwardly (to others). Inward expression is an oxymoron except to God. Likewise, outward expression can reveal a corrupted attitude. Therefore, everything we do outwardly, by default, is an expression of our modesty. By the way, if I wear a bright pink hat with a wire mesh shirt and bright green shorts to work, that too is probably not modest.

Further regarding revealing clothing, the body was not meant to be lustfully enjoyed by anyone other than your spouse – present or future (Deuteronomy 5:21). And, visual lust is declared as adultery by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:28). What are we saying when we dress in a manner that tempts others to lust? What does that say about our attitude towards the things that Jesus values? What don't you understand about the male and female minds? The act of lust is certainly the responsibility of the other person. But, wearing something revealing invites the tempting. And, the Bible is crystal clear that the Christian whose heart and mind is adorned with Godly modesty would seek to resist partaking in the tempting of others to sin (Romans 14:13-23).

In conclusion, regarding food, everyone is on a diet. Some are on a diet of anorexic proportions. Others are on a measured diet that respects daily needs. And, others are on a gluttonous diet. Like diets, everyone has a dress code. Some dress codes are informed by internal attitudes of modesty that are appropriate. Other dress codes are informed by internal attitudes of modesty that are not appropriate. Modesty is not firstly a dress code. But, your attitude towards Godly modesty will display itself in the code by which you dress and otherwise act. So, dress yourself wisely.

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