Wednesday, May 22, 2013

On Being A Woman (Part 3)

My daughter and I were waiting in the hallway of a college when a group of young women walked in.  They were oblivious to our presence, verbally drooling over the scantly clad attire of one woman among them.  We could not help but hear their comments.   "I'm so jealous," and, "where did you find that outfit?"   

Shortly after, a group of young men entered the hallway.  The scantly clad woman announced to the boys that she could walk just like a model of Victoria's Secret and promptly proceeded to demonstrate this feat, proving herself right.  Of course she was the center of attention.

Since when did the knowledge that immodesty tempts men and causes women to be jealous ever inspire a college gal to be a good girl?  It is not a deterrent, but rather a motivation!   I am saddened to see the 'way of the world', destroy the vitality of many a good woman, sapping the beauty right out of her.  But I believe we often seek to instruct by presenting the wrong reasons.  

My heart goes out to these women because so many have been deceived.  If only they realized the beauty of modesty, I truly believe they would make every effort to pursue it.  But we have given them a picture of modesty that is tainted with judgement and boring rule books.  They have therefore, turned to the culture which tells them that a loss of all shame is the heartbeat of true beauty, paving the way toward love.

I originally had no intent of writing about the subject of modesty because it is such a broad topic.  But as I thought on being a woman, I've come to realize that modesty, or the lack of it, is very much a part of who we are.  Furthermore, modesty runs deeper than in the clothes we wear.  It also comes through in the attitude of the heart, the way in which we carry ourselves, and in the words that we speak.  

The remains of my legalism would want to spell out specific boundaries for what I think is acceptable and what isn't, and yet those boundaries would be different for every person depending on their upbringing, cultural influence, and personal taste.  Hence, my "I think" would not be the same as your "I think".  Furthermore, the grace and love of God compels me to say that this is not a hill to die on, for there are more important issues in life, such as seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  Yet, is modesty a part of that righteousness we are to seek?  I believe that it is and therefore devote this post to that topic. 

Each of us are at different places in our relationship with the Lord.  For this reason, we must display grace and compassion, being careful of assumptions based on outward appearance.  The Bible presents clear direction in the area of modesty, but within these boundaries, we are given great  freedom for personal taste.  I am not, therefore, going to give you a list of "my thinks", nor every Scripture I can find on the subject, (and there are many), but rather a few principles gleaned from one single verse.  From the following verse, I find three truths that can be applied to modesty, each one balancing out the other. 

1 Pet. 2:16
 "Live as free men [women], 
but do not use your freedom as a cover up for evil; 
live as servants of God." 

First of all, we are commanded to live free.  This verse follows right on the heels of submitting to authority.  So how does freedom and submission coincide?  If we do not obey those in authority we are anything but free.  By contrast, living in harmony with our authorities brings great freedom . . . and beauty.  Yet, this does not mean there cannot be room for differing convictions.  Rather, it means there is a way to go about declaring our views, and that way is not through rebellion.

However, obeying authority does not mean we have to please every person's idea of modesty.  We cannot live to please people or we would go insane.  Believe me, I've tried this tactic far too many times.  It places burdens on us of which God never intended.  If we are weighed down with the expectations and opinions of others, we become a slave to them and live in bondage.  Their standards then control us.  No, our rules of modesty must come from the conviction of our own hearts in accordance to God's Word, not from legalism.

It cannot be denied, man does look at the outward appearance . . . but God looks at the heart.  (1 Sam.16:7)  We do communicate a message by the way in which we dress.  But if God looks at the heart, then why does the Christian community place such an emphasis on the outward appearance?  Should the heart not also be what truly matters to us?  We can get so hung up on our rules of personal preference that the heart of an individual is often bypassed.   God wants us to live free and the freedom of another must not block our acceptance of them. 

Now that we have established freedom, we are secondly commanded not to use our freedom as a cover up for evil.  In other words, just because I may does not mean that I should.  (1 Cor. 6:12-20)  I might be personally comfortable with specific attire or speech, but it does not mean that it is not causing others to stumble or that we are not secretly enjoying the attention we receive. We are to consider others before ourselves and "among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality," "nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking." (Eph. 5:3-4)

Every woman wants to be loved.  Many would give their bodies as play things in hopes of reaching love, but all that remains is lust.  If a woman wants real love, she will dress and behave in such a way that causes men to see who she is as a person with a name and a heart, not as an object.  Clothing should, therefore, draw the eye to the face, not to body parts.

Lastly, we are commanded to live as servants of God.  What does that look like?  A servant does whatever his master commands.  And in order to obey, I must surrender my own desires and freedoms which may run contrary to the command.  This requires that my selfishness be removed in order for Christ's life to be seen in me.  If the freedom in what I wear causes a brother or sister to stumble, then I need to voluntarily limit some of my freedoms out of love for another.  

The manner in which our clothing can cause our brothers to stumble is by averting their eyes to the wrong places, hence leading to lust or temptation. But we can also cause our sisters to stumble by making them feel inferior or jealous.  Furthermore, immodesty can aid in destroying marriages by coming between a husband and wife, leading the man to feel discontent, and the woman to feel threatened.  Instead, we are to "seek peace and pursue it" and to "live in harmony with one another".  (1 Pet. 3:11,8)

But by contrast, nothing is more refreshing than a modestly dressed woman exhibiting the beauty of Christ in her behavior and mannerisms.  It is restful on the eyes, and soothing to the soul.  That is not to say we must cover ourselves from head to toe or that we must wear tents without form or shape.  But it does mean that modesty matters, not only in our clothing, but in our behavior and speech, because it brings glory to God, "for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light."  (Eph. 5:8)

An excellent summary of modesty comes from the verse directly following 1 Pet. 2:16.  It states, "Show proper respect to everyone.  Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king."  (1 Pet. 2:17)  If we respect others, (as well as ourselves), we will dress in such a way as to honor them.  Furthermore, real love considers the battle that occurs in the mind of men and makes life easier on them.  Real love lays aside self for the sake of another.

I've presented only a few brief thoughts on the subject of modesty.  But hopefully I have given you something to think about as you search the Scriptures for yourself.  Even from only one verse, a case can be made for a woman's appearance and behavior to honor Christ.  I hope you've caught that there are far deeper motivations for modesty than the make up of a man or peace among women.  A modest woman is beautiful and reflects her Maker giving glory to His name, while immodesty eventually produces all things ugly, bringing great shame to our Creator.  Lastly, all of God's commands and principles are for our good.  We will be happiest if we follow in His way, not our own. 

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