Ladies, can I talk to you as a brother real quick? I more than anyone am for girls dressing modestly, but I think we are in danger in the future if we don’t realize a few things. I came across a recent article that argued modesty standards are sometimes just as sinful as girls who dress promiscuously. I wholeheartedly agree, but first let me explain. Because promiscuity is so prevalent today, we in the church have reacted by elevating modesty to unhealthy proportions. We jump too quickly into behavior modification and don’t realize that most of our modesty campaigns are actually borderline legalism.
One rule in particular that “Christian” schools, universities, and clubs like to enforce is the “skirt test.” It usually involves the woman getting on her knees to see if the skirt touches the ground, which if it does it’s deemed acceptable. My question though is what are we doing in that moment? Is the gospel being exalted or are we heaping shame and condemnation on them? The fact that she is on her knees for the test couldn’t be more symbolic of submission, power, shame, and guilt. The trouble, however, is that while modesty standards are set up to not make women’s bodies an object, it is in fact doing that very thing.
Highlighting the girl’s dress in front of everyone, and telling her she should dress a certain way because she doesn’t want “to make the men stumble” is simply making her an object. In the Body we need to realize using men’s sin and lust issues as the reason why a woman should dress a certain way is actually making her just as much an object than if she were to dress promiscuously.
Now, am I saying a woman should dress promiscuously? Hear me emphatically say NO. There is nothing more attractive to me than when my girlfriend dresses in a way that brings attention to her face, not her body. She is beautiful inside and out, and her dressing in a way that makes her smile and personality central shows me she knows who she is, and Who’s she is–which is extremely attractive. But, I am arguing that we must be on guard against our hearts natural inclination towards legalism.
Every lady should ask herself when getting dressed, “am I getting dressed thinking about God’s gaze upon me or someone else’s?” Because the truth is whether you dress to be looked at modestly, or you dress to be looked at promiscuously, you are still dressing to be looked at by someone other than your Creator, which is idolatry. There is nothing wrong getting dressed or picking clothes because you think others will think they’re cute, what I am saying though is, is that affirmation ultimate in your life?
Let me say this loud and clear ladies: you are not an object! Dressing so “church people” will accept you or dressing so guys will gawk at you is the same sin—becoming a slave to the praise of man. Below are a few reasons or thoughts on how and why we got there.
Everything Caters to the Men
Imagine if men were subject to women’s “stumbling block” argument as much as women are to men? Imagine if a woman’s heart was cared for, cherished, and defended with the same tenacity that Christians defend men’s purity? You would certainly hear a lot less sermons about women having to dress a certain way, and more sermons about guys needing to repent of flirty text messages late at night with a girl he has no intention of pursuing. Maybe rather than girl’s having to pass the “skirt test” in the hallway, the teenage boys would have to pass the “text message test” by having their Christian teacher read through them everyday. Imagine that?
It is sad how much of the Christian theology centers on the man being helped and defended. Women are constantly told to dress in a way that makes the men not “stumble.” Now it is extremely encouraging from a guy’s point of view when you can tell a woman is dressing in a way to honor and help a brother in Christ. But, a lot of times this is just a cop out for guys to not deal with their unrepentant lust, sexual sin, and heart issues. It is following in the footsteps of their first father Adam who didn’t take responsibility but instead blamed his wife (Genesis 3).
The truth is a guy can lust or think sinful thoughts about a woman if she were fully covered head-to-toe. No matter what a girl wears the guy has a choice whether he will let Jesus and the power of grace rule in his heart, or if he will let his flesh rule over him. So women, dress modestly, but don’t become a slave to a man’s eyes, become a slave to Jesus.
We love Rules and Regulations, not the Spirit
No matter what the issue is, we as humans prefer rules, regulations, laws, and checklists to Jesus himself. Rather than asking the Spirit what the real issue is inside a woman’s heart, we simply want them to externally modify their behavior. We love to live by the letter of the law, and not the Spirit of the law. We do this because the rules are easier and quicker. But please take note of this one simple truth; a woman must have her heart changed, before her clothes ever will.
Trusting the Spirit takes constant communion, relationship, praying, etc. We can make rules and adhere to them whether the Spirit is absent or not, but to live by the Spirit means you must have a real, intimate, and lively relationship with Him in order to be in communication with Him. This does take time and effort, but the change that occurs here is real, deep, and lasting. If we are only after behavior modification and not the heart, we’ve lost the point completely and are in the same sin as the promiscuous dressing girl, just with a different bent (a more dangerous one I might add because you are not going to get drug before church discipline for dressing too modestly). This is why I love Jesus; He is the perfect solution and antithesis to both religion and rebellion.
Trust the gospel, and no longer submit to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). Don’t feel that your standing before God is in exact parallel with how you dress. You are clothed in perfection because you are in Jesus, not because you dress modestly. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Above that though bring glory to God through your clothes. Dress in such a way that points to your Savior and Creator, not yourself. Because as mentioned above, even sometimes modesty campaigns can be all about you, when God calls us to dress in a way that’s all about Him.
On a practical level, ask your husband, boyfriend, or a guy who is a “brother figure” about this subject. I think this type of guy usually knows you enough to have an honest conversation about what is helpful, what isn’t, and what brings the most glory to Jesus. Lastly, attack the heart of the issue and ask the Spirit to reveal where something may need to change. Remember that clothes (and the attitude that puts on those clothes) are simply an outflow of what’s in the heart. So, ladies, let our Savior’s grace, rather than your righteousness, be exalted through your dress.