As Christians, living in the world, and yet keeping our eyes pure, can present quite a challenge. Those living around us seem to have a fascination with public displays of sexuality. This comes as no surprise; however, it is somewhat surprising that the same challenges often exist when we gather with our Christian brothers and sisters. Certainly this problem needs to be corrected. To do so, we need to understand why the problem exists, so that we can address the cause in the heart, rather than merely the physical symptoms that we see. In considering why Christians continue to dress immodestly, most explanations can be boiled down to three main problems that we need to address.
When dealing with our brothers and sisters, we should always give them the benefit of the doubt and never assume that their motives are less than pure. Indeed, in many cases of immodesty, I believe that we will find that a brother or sister simply has not been properly taught about God’s standards and how their dress affects their influence and affects others.
In some cases, the issue simply has not been taught, or the person was not present when it was taught. In other instances, the teachings were too broad and general, falling short of specific application and a call for change. In many congregations, teachings such as these have been handed down and taught as a tradition. Although the tradition of avoiding mixed swimming and wearing garments that cover the knees, shoulders and midriff is correct, without the biblical background to support it, a tradition is all that remains. As such, the tradition is often rejected as being “somebody’s opinion.”
There are also many instances of ignorant immodesty in which the brother or sister in question understands the basic principle and is committed to it, but does not realize that a particular garment he or she is wearing creates a problem. In cases such as this, all that is needed is a private conversation that is considerate, loving and constructive; yet, all too often we fail to do this simple thing.
Much of the immodesty that plagues the Lord’s people could be easily eliminated through clear, consistent and specific teachings, coupled with loving encouragement and correction from caring brothers and sisters.
When we became Christians, we came out of the world. However, the world had been in us, as a part of our thinking, our actions and our worldview. While the process of becoming a Christian involves a commitment to change, that change does not happen instantly and completely at the moment of baptism. Patterns of thought, the way we look at the world and the actions that result from these take time and teaching to change. This is perhaps one of the most neglected facts of conversion.
Worldly thoughts and attitudes that relate to modesty often persist for years after conversion. This is sometimes related to the issues of ignorance noted above. For others this is an area of personal struggle, either through problems with self-image or through simple temptation or weakness.
The world around us works very diligently to convince each of us that the true beauty and worth of a woman is tied inextricably to her sexuality and that only by putting such on display can she find acceptance and validation. This is also true for men, but generally to a lesser degree. The world works to teach these ideals from the earliest ages, as can be clearly seen by the clothing that is marketed to the parents of toddlers—yes, toddlers!
Dealing with this issue involves coming to an understanding of and identifying with the beauty of holiness as discussed in First Peter 3:3-4:
" Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
This process is often a slow journey. It may require great patience and encouragement from other brothers and sisters in the congregation.
Sadly, there are occasions in which immodesty among Christians is a conscious and deliberate decision to ignore God’s standards. This may be due to a desire for acceptance by those in the world or from the absence of a desire for acceptance by Christ. In either case, these souls are in grave danger. In these situations the immodesty is merely the outwardly visible symptom of a much deeper, more serious problem. Great care and much prayer should be applied in approaching these souls who are caught up in “the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Tim. 2:26).
By taking the time to understand the root cause of immodesty, either our own or that of our brothers and sisters, we can be better equipped to address the problem by confronting the underlying causes.