Who Do We Worship With Our Dress?
Who Do We Worship With Our Dress?
As I sat in church last Sunday, I was struck by how some of the women in church were dressed. Yes, I must admit I was distracted. Then I played a game in my mind; what would it look like in here if men dressed as women did? Men would be wearing tight cargo shorts with their underwear showing, muscle shirts, and flip flops. We would see lots of hairy backs, hairy chests, and thighs. We would see muscled arms and legs.
I thought, "This is a sensitive topic. It's not my problem. As far as it depends on me ... live in harmony with one another. Bringing this up would not bring harmony. I am responsible for me. Just mind my own business." I began to think of some adjustments I should make to my wardrobe.
When I got home I shared my thoughts with my husband. I was very surprised to hear him say that he was struck by the same observation in church. As he collected the offering he also noticed that wardrobe choices seem to be getting smaller and modest dress seems to be less the norm.
This week I was counseling a young couple and the husband asked me if it was sin to leave church because the temptation to lust was too great for him. His wife said, "Maybe close your eyes. Who cares if people think you are sleeping?" I asked him if he could look down at his Bible and take notes. He and his wife both said, "No" at the same time. If he looked down he would see the woman beside him who was sporting a skirt that displayed half her thigh. He confessed that it wasn't just the skin but how tight the clothes were too.
I've counseled men (with their wives) who struggle with the sin of pornography. In the beginning sessions they would share how the Internet and TV are some of places where they find great temptation. As they learn to overcome these temptations that we know the world throws at them, the place where they are now tempted the most is in church. In church! The one place in the world where a man ought to be able escape being tempted to lust is the very place where these men are tempted to fall.
Our family went to The Petrolia Discovery for a Saturday afternoon in June. It's an outdoor museum which recreates the oil fields and related buildings of the 1860s in the Petrolia and Oil Springs area. As we stepped out of the van the smell of oil permeated our nostrils. Half way through our tour I realized that this would be a very dangerous place for a smoker with a strong desire to light up a cigarette. Since our group was quite small I asked our guide if this was so. He told me that is why they have signs posted everywhere stating, "Do Not Smoke." Since smoking is not a temptation I face I was oblivious to the signs. However, it would be very dangerous! If a person were to light a match at the museum they could literally blow the whole place up! It wouldn't matter that they didn't intend to blow the place up or that they didn't know that the place would blow up; the harm done would be the same.
I believe many women do not mean to harm their brothers in Christ. Many women want to follow fashion. We want to look good. Looking good makes us feel good. We like feeling good. I also know some women do intend to attract the attention of men who may be sitting beside them in church. Others have told me that they are not responsible for how men respond to what they wear. Essentially they are saying that they are not their brothers' keeper. They argue "Why should a woman have to change her clothes because a man can't control his lusts?"
It is true; men are responsible for their own actions. In James 1:14, 15 it says "each one is tempted when by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." As women, however, we are fully responsible for what we choose to wear.
I'd like to think that if most women knew the danger they were putting their fellow worshippers in, they would not dress the way they do. Who are these fellow worshippers? They are our husbands, brothers, sons, and grandpas. Yes, I said grandpas. Just because a man ages that does not mean he loses that desire.
I thought about the counselee who asked if he should not go the church if he found the temptations there too great for him. What would be the ideal answer here? It would be ideal if the temptations were not so common in our churches. How do you make rules on this sort of thing? The Bible does not say thou should not wear short, tight, low-cut dresses, with our bra straps showing, or pants so tight that...
God gave us his Spirit to help us know that this is not modest.
Likewise women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self control... with what is proper for women who profess godliness with good works.1 Timothy 2:9-10
If men can be fully clothed in church why can't women?
Where do we start? We need to take out all the emotional attachment that comes with how we dress (and believe me this is an emotional issue) and get back to the truth. Who are we worshipping with our dress?
Husbands and dads this is your responsibility. You need to provide leadership. You need to set a godly standard for how the women in your household dress. As men you are competent to know what will attract your brother's eye because you are aware of how dress affects you.
As moms and grandmas you are the role model. Don't expect your girls to dress appropriately for church if your own style is immodest. If your husband tells you or your daughter that what you are wearing is a problem, you are to submit to him. He is your head. Trust him. He sees things differently. Just like the "Do Not Smoke" signs at the museum that I was missing, as women we may be missing signs that our husbands or dads were created to see.
I'd like to place ourselves in the mirror of Romans 14:19-21.
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.
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