Today we’ll wrap up this series on modesty and grace. Pretty soon I will do my first ever give away, which will include the book that I have referenced frequently (Modest: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel) by Tim Challies and RW Glenn. Keep an eye out here and on the Facebook page for more info on that when it comes available!
If you’re just now joining us, here are the links to catch up.
Part I – Backstory and Bible Verses
Part II – Is Modesty More Than What We Wear?
Part III – Culture, Context, and Time
Part IV – What Does Our Immodesty Say About Us?
Part V – Who’s Responsibility Is It?
Today let’s talk about where we go from here. How do we break out of this? How do we get away from the annual Bikini and Yoga Pant Wars? How do we get to the heart of the issue and focus on the real problem – our own idols and pride and sin nature?
We start by accepting that modesty outside the gospel of grace is legalism.
There is freedom in Christ and modesty is cultural, contextual, and fluctuating. Yes, there are absolutes, but those are very limited in Scripture, and God leaves a lot of grey area because, I believe, He wants us to constantly be seeking Him, coming to Him, studying His living and active Word for what He is doing in each of our lives.
We accept the grace He has given to each of us and we extend it generously to one another.
We talk to our husbands and ask their honest opinions, not ones shaped by what they’ve been told or trained to think, but what’s really in their hearts. We pray for them to have hearts and minds that are pure and focused on God’s best and practicing self-control so their eyes and desires are focused on us, their wives.
We pray that God would make us wives that are desirable to our husbands (because this does matter).
We teach our daughters and our sons that what they see in pictures and on silver screens is fake. More of it than we will ever know.
We tell them that God made the body beautiful. He made us to be attracted to each other. He made us to desire each other. He also made us to practice self control and to think and not be ruled by our passions and desires.
We teach our daughters that they are not ultimately responsible for how men look at them. Yes, we have to make wise choices in our dress, but if a man can be caused to stumble because a woman’s knee caps are exposed, there’s not much else we can do aside from head-to-toe covering. And lust and rape and other crimes against women happen in those cultures too – and it’s almost always the woman’s “fault”.
Let’s teach our sons and our daughters that beauty is more than skin deep, but that God also made us beautiful and He delights in our beauty like a groom delights in his bride and it is ok to look beautiful and feel beautiful – as long as that is not our primary goal in life!
And let us teach our children to listen to God’s conviction in their individual lives and show grace to those who may be in a different place.
We teach our daughters (and ourselves) that using our beauty to gain power over a man is sinful and wrong and our beauty is to please the Lord, but there is nothing wrong with being beautiful and stylish.
Let’s teach our sons what Nate Pyle said he will one day teach his son (this is lengthy, but worth it)…
Someday I am going to have to have the conversation with my son. No, not the conversation all parents dread giving and all kids are mortified having. I enjoy making people uncomfortable so that conversation should be fun. No, I’m talking about another conversation. The one that happens after I catch his eye doing what male eyes do well – following an object of lust. We will probably be out at the mall, because that’s what dads do with their sons, and I’ll catch the look. Maybe we’ll go to the beach and see it. Doesn’t matter where it is, there will come a time when I will see it. And then it will be time for this conversation:
‘Hey, come here. Let me talk to you. I saw you look at her. I’m not judging you or shaming you. I know why you did. I get it. But we have to talk about it because how you look at a woman matters.
A lot of people will try and tell you that a woman should watch how she dresses so she doesn’t tempt you to look at her wrongly. Here is what I will tell you. It is a woman’s responsibility to dress herself in the morning. It is your responsibility to look at her like a human being regardless of what she is wearing. You will feel the temptation to blame her for your wandering eyes because of what she is wearing – or not wearing. But don’t. Don’t play the victim. You are not a helpless victim when it comes to your eyes. You have full control over them. Exercise that control. Train them to look her in the eyes. Discipline yourself to see her, not her clothes or her body. The moment you play the victim you fall into the lie that you are simply an embodied reaction to external stimuli unable to determine right from wrong, human from flesh.
Look right at me. That is a ridiculous lie.
You are more than that. And the woman you are looking at is more than her clothes. She is more than her body. There is a lot of talk about how men objectify women, and largely, it is true. Humans objectify the things they love in effort to control them. If you truly love a person, do not reduce them to an object. The moment you objectify another human – woman or man, you give up your humanity.
There are two views regarding a woman’s dress code that you will be pressured to buy into. One view will say that women need to dress to get the attention of men. The other view will say women need to dress to protect men from themselves. Son, you are better than both of these. A woman, or any human being, should not have to dress to get your attention. You should give them the full attention they deserve simply because they are a fellow human being. On the other side, a woman should not have to feel like she needs to protect you from you. You need to be in control of you.
Unfortunately, much of how the sexes interact with each other is rooted in fear. Fear of rejection, fear of abuse, fear of being out of control. We fear each other because we have been taught the other is dangerous. We’ve been a taught a woman’s body will cause men to sin. We’re told that if a woman shows too much of her body men will do stupid things. Let’s be clear: a woman’s body is not dangerous to you. Her body will not cause you harm. It will not make you do stupid things. If you do stupid things it is because you chose to do stupid things. So don’t contribute to the fear that exists between men and women.
A woman’s body is beautiful and wonderful and mysterious. Respect it by respecting her as an individual with hopes and dreams and experiences and emotions and longings. Let her be confident. Encourage her confidence. But don’t do all this because she is weaker. That’s the biggest bunch of crap out there. Women are not weaker than men. They are not the weaker sex. They are the other sex.
I’m not telling you to not look at women. Just the opposite. I’m telling you to see women. Really see them. Not just with your eyes, but with your heart. Don’t look to see something that tickles your senses, but see a human being. My hope is that changing how you see women will change how you are around them. Don’t just be around women. Be with women.
Because in the end, they want to be with you. Without fear of being judged, or shamed, or condemned, or objectified, or being treated as other. And that’s not just what women want. That’s what people want. Ultimately, it’s what you want.’
And let’s teach our daughters that that’s what they want in a man too. They don’t want what they hear in popular music or see on music videos where a woman is only her body, they want a man who sees her for what she really is – a fellow human being, made in the image of the invisible God, worthy of all the care, respect, and honor he can muster because she is a child of the One True King.
And we remember that Christ-like modesty is rooted in love and we extend grace to one another for the freedoms we may or may not have and we cling to the gospel of love as we live out our lives with fellow believers and nonbelievers alike.
We believe and teach what C.S. Lewis said,
The Christian rule of chastity must not be confused with the social rule of “modesty” (in one sense of that word); i.e., propriety, or decency. The social rule of propriety lays down how much of the human body should be displayed and what subjects can be referred to, and in what words, according to the customs of a given social circle. Thus, while the rule of chastity is the same for all Christians at all times,the rule of propriety changes. A girl in the Pacific islands wearing hardly any clothes and a Victorian lady completely covered in clothes might both be equally “modest”, proper, or decent, according to the standards of their own societies: and both, for all we could tell by their dress, might be equally chaste (or unchaste)….When people break the rule of propriety current in their own time and place, if they do so in order to excite lust in themselves or others, then they are offending against chastity. But if they break it through ignorance or carelessness they are guilty only of bad manners. When, as often happens, they break it defiantly in order to shock or embarrass others, they are not necessarily being unchaste, but they are being uncharitable.
And so, “let all that [we] do be done in love” (I Corinthians 16:14), and let us “give thanks in all things” (I Thessalonians 5:18), and “whether [we] eat or drink or whatever [we] do, do all to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31) for He paid the ultimate price to buy our freedom and He showers us with endless grace and mercy and love, so let us not weigh ourselves down with a yoke of legalism nor let us disgrace His great name by abusing the liberty He has bought for us. Instead, let us seek Him daily to know Him more and reflect His love to everyone around us, in our clothing, in our hospitality, in our generosity, in every way, because His grace covers every thing.
For His Glory ~