Modesty can be a super discouraging topic of conversation, but it doesn’t need to be. Surely we can all discuss it like Christian women who are serious about what God has for us. Titus 2 lays out the things that are important for the older Christian women to be teaching the younger Christian women, and in that list there are three things that really stand out to me. 1) To be kind 2) To love their husbands and love their children and 3) To be self controlled and pure. Now each one of these things is very relevant to the topic of modesty.
Yet the topic of modesty continues to be one of the most outrageously emotional discussions that women get into. Quite possibly because this is a topic on which the teaching of the older women is often at odds with the desires of the younger. But Scripture is clear that the younger women need to be taught this. They do not spontaneously combust with this knowledge. They need to listen to women who have been around longer than they have and perhaps have some insight that they are missing. I’d like to run through a quick ten points on the subject of modesty, which I hope will be helpful.
1) This discussion is not directed at unbelievers. These are not suggestions for springboard topics for your street evangelism. We are talking about how Christian women in our own churches ought to be viewing modesty. This is about practical Christian living.
2) Parents (and later on, husbands) who are respectable and trustworthy are absolutely critical. Many times in my youth I got myself into an outfit that I believed to be great, and appropriate, and cute, and perfect, that was shot down by the authorities. Because I loved my parents this was a momentary disappointment, and because they loved me, it was always in kindness. But what if you do not have parents like this? Well then you need to be working to become this for your children. Wisdom will not grow where foolishness is being cultivated. Seek it out, and you will be richly rewarded.
3) Lets keep our priorities in mind here. I have heard many young girls take a stand that could boil down to, “If God doesn’t want me in bikinis then He isn’t a God for me!” Seriously? Be honest with yourself here. I do not believe that Scripture calls us to be frumpy. But what if it did? Are you ready to walk away from the faith?
4) Thinking that the God who created breasts is too uptight for you is pretty awesome. He made sex. He made the desire to have it. He made the shapely girls and lusty boys. Refusing to listen to what your Creator tells you about yourself is outrageous narcissism. Refusing to listen to your mother is bad too, though not as bad.
Many Christians act like the world invented sex, and God is too prudish to deal with it. Like the editors of Cosmo made this up in their little think tank and God hasn’t caught on to the trend yet. We are too hot for Him to handle! This is really embarrassing. God gave you that body, He gave you your sexuality, and He wants you to use it to His Glory. Think about that.
5) There is a lot of talk about not wanting to make the young Christian girls feel ashamed of their bodies. As though respecting your body and behaving modestly is going to result in a crisis of future bad lovers. First of all, total side point: there are many modest women in thriving marriages with loads of children. Sort that out.
But the most important thing is that there are far more young women who would rather have the Christians thinking they are worldly than the world thinking they are Christians. If they knew we were Christians it would ruin our witness. If they could tell by the swimsuit I wear that I believe God can see my actions, then my testimony would be blown. If my clothes said that I believed in abstinence before marriage I would be so embarrassed. We would rather be associated with the immoral women who wear pretty clothes than with the League of Godly Womanhood for the Domestic Future. There is something deeply wrong with this. We are more ashamed of the Body of Christ than we are of our own sexuality, and that is a far more spiritually crippling problem.
6) Some Christians overemphasize the lust of men to the point of making it the responsibility of women. This is silly and wrong. Yet let’s consider this Titus 2 kindness again. About those leggings that aren’t pants, nor are they tights, nor are they underwear, (yet you are using them for all three). Those. Who are you serving with those? How are they serving your brothers? How are they serving your sisters? How are they serving you? And how are they serving God? Is God just pleased that your butt looks so great? Is He glad you found a way to make everyone look at it? Are the brothers who came to the Bible study to learn about The Gospel of Mark struggling through the logistics of your underwear usage instead? Are the sisters having to agonize over what to say to you since they know your friendship hangs in the balance? Here. I will say it. That is not kind. Be kind.
7) Scripture is abundantly clear about the immoral and immodest woman. When Christian parents teach their sons about the bad kind of women,they are pouring out mercy and strength to him. When a Christian mother says “you will know her by her immodest selfies on Facebook” the response of other Christians should be “amen!” and not what it currently is. We are so quick to fury about this. But if an immodest selfie is not standing in the gates with wanton eyes, I don’t know what is. Here is the deal. This is a main theme of Proverbs. Men! Stay away! If this hurts your feelings then you need to think about why, and you need to find a way to get your heart on track with Scripture on this.
8) Because we mistakenly believe that the world invented sex, we feel that an obedience to God is moving away from our sexuality. But God gave us our bodies with the intent that we use them to His glory. If you are not yet married, you can be honoring your Heavenly father and your future husband with how you use your body now. You can be protecting your future children now. I’m not even joking when I say that you are investing in your sexual future. Love, in your actions now, the people who will be dear to you then.
If you are a married woman, recognize that this body you have was given to you as a vessel of love, and joy, and satisfaction, and life. Carry your babies in gladness. See the stretch marks and changes in your body as a reminder of the grace that God is, and has, and will continue to pour out on you and through you. See the legacy that He is giving you to build in joy, and continue in joy as you build it.
Modesty is only a small component of the most complete sexual experience on the planet. The way God wants us doing this starts with vows before Him and ends with headstones beside each other. And when we are gone, the legacy of our love will be all wrapped up in people. Honor God in all the parts of that story – including the parts that are preparation. Do not get so fixated on what the cover of this book looks like to others that you neglect to think about the story inside. The world tells us that sex is all about self satisfaction and feeling good about yourself – it is a flashy, shiny cover that has cute shoes. But on the inside it is a story full of confusion, guilt, and sorrow while the heroine struggles to love herself. But think about this. God tells us that it is all about loving others. Pouring yourself out for others. Investing in others. Giving life to others. And all because we are loved by Him first, and second by human reflections of that love. Let your story be a story of faithful love that tells of His.
9) Recognize that often times the issue is not the issue. The skimpy tank top that started the discussion was not the only reason for the concern. If immodest outfits were frozen in time with no meaning and no directionality, it wouldn’t matter so much. But this is your life being written and you just introduced a plot point that looks to be going to a bad place.
I think sometimes the older people feel like they have been watching the spaghetti scene in Lady and the Tramp on endless repeat. Another young girl eating spaghetti that ends in kissing the world. Only the world is not a cute dog, it is a devouring sorrow. Stop eating!! I am not saying that this excuses people who get super shrill and panicky about modesty, but at least they are acknowledging the danger. Meanwhile the sweet little girls roll their eyes at the older women and say, “Oh. My. Word. Get a grip woman. I am just having a bite, or two, or three, or whoopsies!”
Related to this, it doesn’t matter how many times you have been wronged by up-tight modesty police in your life. Your duty before God continues. Stop thinking about how other people could best be nice about you and start thinking about how you can best be honoring God.
10) Let’s just be honest about how easy this actually is. We do not need to get tangled up in what modesty meant at different times and in different cultures. Just start with here, now. Picture a spectrum. On one side, put an immodest t-shirt. On the other, put a modest one. Where does yours lie between them? Is a skoochy strapless mini dress a modest dress in our era? Is a bikini a modest swimsuit in our era? Are you a modest girl in our era?
One of my daughters recently claimed that it was impossible to get onto our trampoline because of the unbelievable infestation of ants. They were swarming. They were biting. You absolutely could not pass. Any mother who would send her child into that piranha-like situation was completely heartless. So we went out there together to check and we were able to locate, after some time, one. It looked gentle. It was tiny. Pretty sure it didn’t bite.
This kind of behavior has become commonplace among Christian women. “It is impossible for me to find a shirt that does not show my cleavage. Impossible. ” “I have to wear skirts that slit up to my insufficient skivvies because my legs can’t walk otherwise. It’s tough, but I hold up ok.” ” I never KNOW when I am bending over ostentatiously! I forget that I have such an ample bosom when I am getting it out for a little performance.” “I can’t wear a bra that provides any kind of modesty. It is annoying to me to have straps or closures.” “I simply am unable to swim otherwise.”
Come on ladies! Surely we are up to a challenge. And the ants aren’t going to eat us alive. I promise.