Modesty and Clothing
“Modesty” is an unpopular word today. Though it is synonymous with humility, when used as a discipleship tool, the progressivist opposition often lashes out nonsensically, improperly exhausting words like body shame and oppression, to veil individual behavioral responsibility. Sadly, many Christians find difficulty accepting truths requiring them to surrender conditioned, comfortable freedoms.
It’s time for both genders to acknowledge their individual responsibilities in this fallen world. Is there an outlined list of dos and don’ts that we as Christians must abide by in all contexts of living and communication? No, absolutely not.
We live in an age in which the law has been fulfilled through Christ’s finished work on the cross. No longer must we live our lives in comparison to a list of laws, rather we are to live our lives patterned after the fulfillment of that law, Jesus Christ himself. No longer do we offer sacrifices to represent our commitment and contrition, rather as Paul says, we are living sacrifices.
We’d argue, too, that although we are certainly and most definitely freed from the law as followers of Christ, we are called to a much higher standard.
Now, we are not saying that a person is defined by his or her clothing. Rather, we are saying that clothing communicates. And as Christians, we must communicate to the world both intentionally and effectively, in efforts to draw others to the gospel of Christ. Through our clothing choices, we must choose to be image bearers of Christ who point the attention of others to our great Creator, rather than ourselves.
Let’s consider five simple, yet powerful principles our entire Taylor community could use to mindfully communicate through clothing.
1. Is this honorable to God?
Look into the mirror and ask yourself if what you’re wearing adorns the very image of God. Remember, we are called to be living sacrifices. 1 Corinthians 6:20 reminds us that, “You were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” As Christians, we are called to die daily to our desires and live new lives in Christ. Does something you are wearing take attention away from God and bring attention to a certain part of you? We are created for the very glory of the God who created us. This is a high calling and one we must not take lightly. Never once in Scripture are we told to take up our flags and fight for our rights; rather it tells us to take up our crosses and die daily. We are to model our lives after Christ, the Son of God, who though he was in his very nature God, came to earth, was born in an animal’s feeding stall and died on a cross. Jesus set forth the ultimate example of humility. This is an example we would do well to follow in every aspect of our Christian living on this campus.
2. Is this honorable to my brothers and sisters in Christ?
Throughout Scripture, we are called again and again to put others before ourselves. Of course, some people object that it is not the wearer’s fault if others lust or have inappropriate thoughts. Though it is quite true that each individual is responsible for his or her own thoughts, that doesn’t excuse us from being attentive to how we communicate with our clothing. There is a dual responsibility that must be recognized. Though I could wear a potato sack covering all parts of my body and someone struggling with his or her thoughts could still lust, on the opposite end of the spectrum, if I were to walk around flaunting parts of myself that I know are visually stimulating, then I invite them to think inappropriately and I have been a part of their downfall, whether I intended this or not. Contrary to popular belief, we are our brother’s keeper. In Romans 14, Paul describes how our Christian liberty ends where community begins. We are to make every effort to aid in the growth and well-being of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Christian communities such as ours should be different; visibly demonstrating the ways we live and love one another.
3. What does this communicate to the lost world I am trying to win to Christ?
Many people don’t know Jesus. They will see Jesus or will not see Jesus in you, depending on your words and actions; and clothing choices are communicative actions. In a world that is vainly chasing after every pleasure the heart desire, we have a responsibility as Christians to show them there’s another way. A better way. We have a responsibility to be salt and light and show God’s love. Our love should be the distinctive factor that draws others to Christ, and we have the responsibility to make sure that our clothing doesn’t distract people from our message.
Is your goal in life to exercise your freedoms or to call others to walk in the freedom from sins found in Christ? Paul addresses a concern of Christian liberty at the end of 1 Corinthians 10, when he states, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. I have the right to do anything—but not everything is constructive. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” Many live out their Christian lives more concerned with their own rights, rather than the growth of our Christian brothers and sisters and the souls of those who still need Jesus. Let us not miss out on the chance to make a redemptive impact because of selfish decisions.
4. Is this honorable to my spouse or future spouse?
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul reminds married couples that they are called to satisfy and protect their spouses. He even goes so far as to say that their bodies belong to one another. This isn’t meant to imply an oppressive, domineering relationship, but rather a loving relationship in which each spouse goes above and beyond to serve and protect the other. There are parts of one’s self, both emotional and physical, that should be reserved solely for one’s spouse. When clothing reveals what is meant only for the marriage relationship, we give to the world what belongs to our spouse. Married men and women who make certain clothing choices may unintentionally communicate messages to the opposite sex—messages that might have negative implications regarding their marriage relationships.
5. Am I honoring my own body?
You are created in the image of God. You are fearfully and wonderfully made to bring God glory. He loves every part of you. There is no shame in the person God has created you to be—physically, emotionally or spiritually. You are truly beautiful. On the other hand, you cannot ignore your responsibility to steward well the gifts God has given you.
Despite what society tries to sell you, your worth goes far beyond what you choose to wear each day. You don’t have to exploit your body for the enjoyment of others. Respect yourself. Clothe yourself with strength and dignity. Be the man or woman God has called you to be.
We are called, in whatever we do, to bring glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31). John reminds us that we are to spend our lives loving the Father and living differently than the world. Paul describes one mark of Christians as the self-sacrificial community that desires the good of the brethren over their own wants and needs, thus encouraging us: “Honor one another above yourselves” (Rom. 12:10). Our worth, our identity, our value is found in Christ. We don’t have to sell ourselves out by being conformed to the image the world calls attractive and acceptable. We can choose to live our lives confident in a God who loves us completely and is worthy of our living sacrifice.