Monday, April 20, 2015

Modesty Is Not Legalism, and De-Bunking Four Other Modesty Myths

"Let all things be done decently and in order."
I Corinthians 14:40

I have shared a small glimpse into some of the journey my little family and I 
have traveled in and through and out of legalism and its bondage.
Looking back, I see our deliverance as a sort of "Red Sea" in our lives.
When I say I understand the meaning of legalism because of real-life experience,
I am telling you the absolute truth.
There are many aspects and layers that I have never felt led to share,
but I have said enough here to paint a sketchy portrait of at least a portion of our experience.

For some time now, I have felt God nudging me to delve back into this subject,
but to approach it from a much different angle this time.

This post is not "fluffy" and "feel-good".
It is raw and honest and blunt, in many ways,
but I want you to know that it is "spoken" in much love and from a heart that never intends to wound.
It comes from a long-time burden that is ever-present and very heavy upon my heart.

I walk into this and hit the publish button fully aware that I am veering into "controversial" and "politically-incorrect" territory here,
that this post may provoke contradictory, even ugly, comments,
and it may cost me some followers and/or subscribers....even friends.
I hope not.
Because I truly love every one of you.
You are precious to my heart.
This is one of the reasons I speak truth here.
Truth cannot be sugar-coated and should never be watered down.
Any alteration to the truth makes it less than 100% truth.
It diminishes its purity.
It taints and mars its virtue.

I have hesitated to write this post for so long.
It is one of those that God brings to mind and ignites passion about,
then I sort of slyly and sheepishly shove it on the back burner,
hoping He will overlook my disobedience to write and post it.
Because I do not ever want to come across as being judgmental or critical.
I wish I could speak this to you face to face, so you would see the concern in my eyes and hear the love in my tone.
If I could add body language to these words, you would know, deep down in your heart,
that I carry a heavy burden for the Body of Christ, that I would never intentionally hurt you or any of its members, and that I am only the messenger.

"Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?"
Galatians 4:16
I trust not.

As much as I would like to continue dragging my feet in discussing this, 
God let me know today that I have waited long enough.
I know how it feels to disobey Him.
I have learned, through painful, repeated experience, that no matter how hard something is that He is asking me to do, it is always, always easier than the consequences of disobedience.

So, here goes....we delve, dear friends, into the controversial subject of modesty of dress.
And we endeavor, by God's grace, to debunk a few of the myths that surround it.
I humbly ask you to please hear me out.

Myth #1:  
Modesty of dress is legalistic.

Oh, my friends, this is trickery right out of satan's play book.
This is a tactic and ploy of the enemy of our souls.
This ploy is so sly and cunning and clever, that we have fallen flat into its clutches,
and played right into his conniving hands, without even realizing what was happening.
He has used this to convince us that many God-given mandates contained in His Holy Word are unnecessary and that these mandates are, in reality, man-made, man-contrived, and man-originated demands of a legalistic nature.
Satan has managed to dupe us into believing that we don't have to "do" certain things,
because they fall under the category of legalism, when, in truth, they have nothing in the world to do with anything man-made or contrived, but are, in actuality, vital components of God's law.

In our current generation, there is is a rush to steer clear of legalism.
Rightfully, so.
I get that.
Believe me.
So many of us have felt the sting of legalism's whip for so many years of our lives,
that we are only now beginning to understand the real meaning of God's amazing grace,
as we fearfully and timidly emerge from our beaten-down spiritual places of "hiding".
But, we need to keep in mind that freedom from legalism does not give us a free pass to overlook and rebel against Biblical commands.

God's Word demands that we live a holy life.
"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord..."
Hebrews 12:14

Living a holy life requires a certain standard of modesty of dress.
It has nothing in the world to do with man-made legalism.
Modesty of dress is not legalistic,
as we have been so craftily tricked into believing.
Modesty is a Biblical doctrine.
I am not speaking of anything man-dictated that is without Biblical foundation,
but of the Scriptural instruction concerning the sufficient covering of our physical bodies.

"In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, 
with shamefacedness and sobriety."
I Timothy 2:9

I know I am old-fashioned.
I am definitely from the old school.
But, I think somewhere down the line, we have lost our "shamefacedness."
We don't feel so careful about keeping the body parts that God ordained to be preserved for intimacy
covered and out of sight while in public and around mixed company anymore.
We have become so desensitized by the bombardment of nudity around us
that we are no longer shamefaced, nor do we seem to feel the need to blush.
Even when surrounded by pastors and Christian circles,
we seem to feel no sense of conscience while dressed inappropriately.
It is hard to make anyone blush anymore.
This astounds me and burdens my heart.
It reminds me of the heaviness upon Jeremiah's heart when he said,
"Are they ashamed because they have done such shameful things?
No, they are not at all ashamed.
They do not even know how to blush!"
Jeremiah 6:15
(NET Bible)

I do not feel led to debate the never-ending spectrum of people's individual definitions of the word modest.
There are as many varying opinions on this subject as there are on every other spiritual subject, and I do not claim to possess the authority, by any means.
Oh, I could lay out a play-by-play rule book that would explain my personal God-given convictions of how He requires me to dress.
I could elaborate on how He has dealt with me, on a personal level, through the years,
and I could tell you certain items of clothing that I feel I should and should not wear,
not because of man-made legalistic "rules",
but solely based upon how the Holy Spirit has led and instructed me.
We could go into clothing types, lengths, styles, and all sorts of details.
I can tell you right now, I will NOT do this.
You will never find such a list here.
Because, I am human, fallible, hopelessly flawed, and I fall short of the glory of God,
just like, probably more than, everyone else.
I don't have, nor do I claim to have, all of the answers.
My convictions are not your convictions.
Mine are between God and me and what He requires of me,
and yours are between God and you and what He requires of you.

But, this one thing I know.
As people professing Christianity,
as people claiming to be filled with God's Spirit,
as those who say they are disciples and followers of Jesus Christ,
 we should dress in a way that we would feel comfortable should Jesus Himself walk up to us on the street.
As women professing Godliness, (I Timothy 2:10), we should cover those parts of our bodies that were given to us for intimate and maternal reasons.

Common sense tells us so, does it not?

Humor me...for just a moment...if you will.
If Jesus, Who is holiness personified, should pass you...or me....on the street....
would we feel ashamed of the way we are clothed or not-so-clothed?
Would we feel an urge to run and grab something to put on over our scant attire, 
or would be feel no shame because our "pertinent" body parts are completely and modestly covered?

If He were to sit across the table from us,
would we feel at ease
would we wish a thousand wishes we had a sweater or jacket to wrap around us
or zip over our exposed breasts?
Sorry if I am being too graphic, dear friends,
but it just really bothers me to see how comfortable we have become...
how lackadaisical, and how "sanctioned" it is for us to expose ourselves
and still maintain our Christian testimony.
What distinguishes us from the world around us when we are exposing as much flesh as they are? 
How is our standard any higher to maintain?
When did exposing cleavage become so acceptable in Christian circles?
When did it reach the point that we can walk into church services wearing clothing that would have made my Papaw's generation blush if they had seen it in a pub down the street?

Is it because the "watchmen on the wall" (Ezekiel 33) have dropped the ball and failed to sound the alarm?
The more I move in and around Christian and church circles, the more I am appalled at the looseness of standards and the lack of preaching on "issues" like modesty.
I have often felt sorry for pastors as they stand in front of congregations and look out over the crowd
trying to keep their composure and concentration in tact and their eyes above the exposed flesh in front of them.
Frankly, I don't know how they manage to keep their minds on wholesome things,
when temptation stares back at them every direction they look.
Surely, they are aware of the immodesty.
It is blatant and as much in-their-face as it is in the rest of ours.
So, why the failure to address it?
Have they become so fixated on high attendance numbers that they have convinced themselves they dare not rock the boat by preaching on "things"?
Have they forgotten that certain "things" that are mentioned in God's Word must be preached?
Are they so afraid of sounding "legalistic" that they dismiss certain passages of Scripture?

Why don't we preach about covering our bodies anymore?

Myth #2:  
God only looks on the heart; so, He doesn't care what I wear on the outside.

This is the justification I hear most often used when anything is ever brought up about modest dress.
We have convinced ourselves that God is not concerned with what we put on the outside of our bodies, because all He is interested in is what is on the inside.
The Scripture I hear most often used to justify this is I Samuel 16:7, which says,
"But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature;
because I have refused him:
for the Lord seeth not as man seeth;
for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."

What we need to do is to "rightly divide the Word of truth."  
(2 Timothy 2:15)

In I Samuel 16:7, God was not, in any way, shape, or form speaking of Eliab's clothing when he spoke these words to Samuel.
Samuel was searching for the man who would replace the errant King Saul as the next king of Israel.
God had shown Samuel that the next king would be found among Jesses' sons.
As Samuel sat waiting for Jesse's sons to come before him, he looked at the first son, named Eliab, and he falsely assumed, based on on his outward appearance, that he surely must be the man God had chosen to be the next king.
Evidently Eliab was tall and handsome, and it appeared that he would make the perfect political figure head.
So, based upon the assumption of his good looks and height, 
Samuel thought he had found God's man.
"And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab,
and said, surely the Lord's anointed is before Him."
I Samuel 16:6
This is when God told him, "Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature:
because I have refused him:
for the Lord seeth not as man seeth:  for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh upon the heart."
God knew what was in Eliab's heart, and evidently He saw something there that would not be fitting to the king he had in mind to lead His chosen people.
The person He had chosen was actually a young, humble, unassuming shepherd boy named David,
who was out in the fields, tending Jesse's sheep.
David was worlds apart different from his older brother, Eliab.
In Acts 13:22, the Lord says,
"I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after Mine Own heart,
which shall fulfill all My will."
Outwardly, Eliab was a much more likely candidate for God to choose, but since God looks upon the heart, He, in His infinite wisdom, saw what He needed inside of David.
Therefore, David was God's choice.

So, you see, this passage of Scripture truly has nothing in the world to do with how we adorn our bodies, nor should it ever be used to justify our insistence upon dressing inappropriately.

God DOES look upon the heart, but, at the same time,
He DOES indeed care about the adequate covering of our outward bodies.
Nowhere in Scripture is this more evident than in Genesis 3.
When Adam and Eve realized they had sinned in the garden of Eden, they felt ashamed.
Their feeling of this conviction and subsequent actions are explained in Genesis 3:7.
"Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked;
so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves."
They felt the need to cover hide the shame they felt from their hide the nakedness they had only then discovered.
You can imagine how scant a garment would be were it to be comprised of only sewn-together fig leaves like the ones shown in the picture below.

Photo Source

There would be gaps and holes and see-through spots, leaving little to the imagination.
When God came searching for them, He did not find their scant attire of sewn-together fig leaves adequate to cover their nakedness.
So, in Genesis 3:21, we read,
"The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them."
These were solid garments, thick enough to cover the body and keep it warm,
loose enough to allow for movement,
 and adequately modest.

If God didn't care how we clothe our outward bodies, 
He would have deemed the fig leaf attire sufficient and satisfactory.

Myth #3:  
Modest = frumpy.

Does dressing modestly mean I have to go out and buy the exact same clothes my Great-Granny wears?
Does my closet have to replicate hers in order for me to cover my body?
Do I have to dress like a 90 year old woman in order to please God's requirement of modesty?
I think this may be the most absurd myth in need of debunkment.  (Is that a word???)
Modesty is a thing of beauty.
It automatically paints a rare and lovely picture of true femininity and gracious womanhood.
Modesty is attractive and, because of its near obscurity in our society,
it is a breath of refreshing air to come across and discover.
Believe it or not, there are still men in our world who find a modestly-dressed woman very appealing.
There are still men who seek after a woman who is adequately covered.
There are still men who respond with great respect for a woman who will dress like a true lady,
and they are more than happy to treat her like one when she does.
There are still men who regard intimacy as sacred,
who recognize a woman as precious,
and who long to find one who values herself enough to preserve her own purity.
There are still men who do not feel the need for a woman to expose her body in public,
leaving very little to the imagination of the men she encounters.
Thank God, there are still men who prefer to not be bombarded with indecency,
and who prefer to maintain the significance and blessedness of private communion.
Now, before I go farther, I will admit that it can be difficult to find modest clothes that are age-appropriate.
No one ever said it would be easy to live Godly.
Unfortunately, clothing designers purposely create clothes that are revealing, that draw attention to intimate body parts, that are way too form-fitting and tight,
that accentuate curves, and that elicit certain response mechanisms.
Often times, even when necklines are designed to be high enough, they are cut so widely,
that they become very revealing and immodest when the person wearing them bends over.
Let's be honest.
We live in a fallen world in which immorality "sells".
It sickens me to acknowledge it, but that's just the way it is.
As hard as it is though, with a little creativity, a little extra effort, and a strong sense of determination,
we can present ourselves in an attractive, even fashionable way, that is God-pleasing modest,
AND anything but frumpy.
Again, I do not intend to lay down my personal opinions on what comprises modest apparel.
I have to follow my own God-given convictions, and you must follow yours.
According to this link, modest means this:
"having or showing regard for the decencies of behavior, speech, dress, etc.; decent".
What is decent?
The Holy Spirit is our only sure Guide.
If we seek Him earnestly and diligently, with an open heart, He will make the path to holiness plain to us, not only along the lines of modesty of dress, but in every other aspect of our lives.

Myth #4:
It is my body, and I am not responsible for how others are affected by what I wear.

Is it really? 
My body?
If I am a Christian, am I really my own any longer?

"What?  Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you,
which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
for ye are bought with a price:
therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
I Corinthians 6:19, 20

I am not insinuating that ANY inappropriate behavior or violation of privacy is EVER excusable,
under any circumstances, nor should it ever be justified or blamed upon another,
regardless of what they were wearing or doing beforehand.
Nor am I saying that we can control what goes on in the minds of others.

"So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God."
Romans 14:12

What I am saying is that, as Christian women, we should be mindful.
We should dress and conduct ourselves in a way that is Jesus-honoring and God-glorifying.
To willfully expose our bodies in an immodest and indecent manner
is to open the door to lust and temptation and to elicit spiritual battles in the minds of others.

"Let us not therefore judge one another any more:
but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way."
Romans 14:13

Our husbands, sons, fathers, pastors, and Christian brothers are bombarded with undress and seduction in all other parts of the world around us....
billboards, check-out line magazine covers, television and internet commercials and programming,
never mind their daily and continual personal interactions.
They should, in us, find a reprieve and an example of holiness and purity, should they not?

Myth #5:
It is too hot and uncomfortable to dress modestly.

It amazes me how we have convinced ourselves that there is no cross involved in following Jesus.
Did He ever promise it would be an easy path to follow in His footsteps?
His actual words were these...
"If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,
and follow Me."
Luke 9:23
I am not saying that we should adopt a "poor, pitiful me", martyr-like mindset,
walking through life in misery, continually bemoaning the heaviness of our cross.
But, there are certain non-negotiables that are important in our Christian walk,
and many of them are going to involve the denying of our flesh and our own fleshly desires.
Covering our bodies sufficiently and modestly is one of those non-negotiables.
Jesus never promised that our lives would be comfortable,
nor did He tell us to do what feels good or what is easiest.
He told us to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and to follow Him.
Following Jesus' example will often require us to do the exact opposite of the world around us.
To "go with the flow" and blend in with the masses seldom involves bearing a cross,
and taking the path of least resistance rarely mimics the actions of our Lord.

Modest dress is important to God.
It should be important enough to us to do what we need to do to remain covered,
regardless of how uncomfortable and/or unpopular it causes us to be.
God always honors obedience and provides necessary grace to follow His will.
"And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee:
for My strength is made perfect in weakness.
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
2 Corinthians 12:9

Modesty matters, my dear friends.
What we do, and yes, what we wear, matters.
I realize this has become a "hot-button" issue and topic, even among Christian circles.
It is not something people seem to want to hear or something preachers want to discuss.
Regardless of what we do or do not want to hear and/or discuss,
modesty is still a Bible command.
It is not, nor will it ever be, legalism.
It is still a vital part of God's perfect plan for morality and decency.
God's rulebook for holiness will always remain the same,
no matter how the world around us diminishes or adjusts its ethical gauge and criterion.
The decline in the moral standards of our nation is appalling.
I can't help but believe that the relaxation of modesty guidelines and principles
is at least, in part, responsible for that downturn.
How refreshing it would be to see a modesty revival among Christian ranks!
How blessed it would be for each of us to seek the Lord's face diligently and sincerely,
asking Him to lead us in this area, then for us to show the way to others.

"Ye are the light of the world.
A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid."
Matthew 5:14

We are to lead and be strong, not to follow and go along.

How wonderful to know that if we have erred,
we have an Advocate and a God Who is ready to forgive!

"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.
And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous:
and He is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours only
but also for the sins of the whole world."
I John 2:1,2

"For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive;
and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee."
Psalm 86:5

Thank you so much for hearing me out, for reading all the way to the end of this very heavy,
long-winded post, and for your prayerful consideration of the burden God has laid upon my heart.

Written with much love from my heart to yours,