In my last post viagra 40mg too (unless you have a penis. In that case, shop God made your penis).” href=”http://www.heismakingeverythingnew.com/god-made-my-vagina-and-he-made-yours-too-unless-you-have-a-penis-in-that-case-god-made-your-penis/” target=”_blank”>God Made My Vagina and He Made Yours, anemia Too (Unless You Have a Penis. In that Case, God Made Your Penis), I talked about how Christian modesty culture can really have a damaging effect on how we think about our bodies. This post continues along the same lines but is more specifically focused on the clothing we wear and the existence of dress codes.
About six years ago I was in the middle of a piano lesson with my (very old) piano teacher when she looked down at my flip flops and said, “We had a woman come to our church wearing shoes like that. I pointed it out to my pastor so he could speak to her because that’s just not appropriate to wear at church.”
I sat there dumbfounded. She was upset because a woman wore flip flops to church? So upset to talk to her pastor about telling the woman to wear different shoes? I tried to say that I didn’t think there was anything wrong with wearing flip flops to church (let’s be honest, it’s all I wear during the summer, including what I wear to church) but she remained confident that flip flops should absolutely not be worn at church.
I felt so sad imagining this flip-flop wearing woman visiting this church. Instead of being covered by the love of Christ and accepted by the body, she had people looking at her with disapproving stares because of her choice of shoes. The message she received that Sunday morning was not of the captivating beauty of Jesus and the Gospel of grace and truth, but rather the message, “You are not welcome here with those shoes.”
How ridiculous is that?
One of the dangers of having a dress code, whether explicitly stated or just implied, is that it can cultivate a self-righteous attitude in those keep the dress code and an attitude of judgment towards those who don’t.
If modesty culture teaches that people who love Jesus don’t wear clothes like short shorts, spaghetti strapped tank tops, leggings, or bikinis, what happens when we see Christians wearing these clothes? We start being able to categorize people into the groups “actually love Jesus” and “clearly don’t follow Jesus” simply by what clothing they choose to wear.
But here’s the thing–there are so many things wrong with this kind of thinking. First of all, there are no clear-cut standards of modesty, Biblical or otherwise. I never would have thought that flip-flops would have been considered immodest or inappropriate. There are Christians today who don’t believe women should wear pants. In many Muslim countries, modesty is covering your head or your entire face. In some tribal cultures, women spend most of their time topless–does that mean that they’re immodest?
And an even deeper reality is that it’s not our job as lovers of Christ to pass judgment on anybody. It’s our job to love people intensely and whole-heartedly. We can’t tell what someone’s relationship with Jesus is like based on their clothing. Jesus said, “The tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Mt 21:31). I’m sure the Pharisees thought that they could tell what sort of relationship these prostitutes had with God just by looking at them and guess what? They were horribly wrong.
A core part of Christianity is that it’s inclusive–everyone is welcome at the table. One of the problems with a dress code is that it can make things exclusive. If your youth group has a dress code, what happens when a new person comes and isn’t following the dress code? Or what about when you want to invite your friend to come to youth group but don’t know how to tell them that they need to change their clothes and so you end up not inviting them? This can lead to the same situation the flip-flop woman was in–instead of the Gospel we promote a shallow religion of rule following and dos and don’ts.
Anyone who has spent any time at all in youth group has heard that guys are “visual beings” and that we need to be careful to not less our “brothers stumble.” I’m not here to attack that thinking, but I do think that we are communicating a message to Christian guys that’s not necessarily helpful. What is often communicated is that guys cannot possibly help themselves when it comes to looking at girls who are dressed in certain types of clothing. Why is this what we’re telling our young Christian men? Instead of telling them that God is the God of the impossible and that we are empowered to live out lives of holiness by the Holy Spirit, we’re telling them that if girls wear bikinis they physically can’t stop lusting? And of course it never seems like guys have any sort of dress code (coming from someone who has seen youth group guys end up in just their boxers out in public on church trips).
If dress codes seem to promote self-righteous attitudes, a culture of judgment and exclusivity, and fails to teach guys to walk out in purity, where does this leave us?
I think that there are a lot of things in the Christian faith that fall along the lines of what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24. He writes:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
Paul is talking about whether or not Christians should eat food that has been sacrificed to idols. Paul says that this is ok, because Christians know that there is no god but the Lord. However, even if something is permissible, it might not be beneficial. I believe it’s permissible to wear bikinis and tank tops and all that, but it might not be beneficial. But here’s the thing–I believe we should be empowering young men and women to hear from the Lord and be empowered by the Holy Spirit to make their own life decisions, including the clothing they wear. And I think we have to be ok with the reality that people might come to different conclusions. In Paul’s day, some Christians decided not to eat food sacrificed to idols and some did. Some Christians today believe it’s ok to drink alcohol and some choose not to. I believe that the Lord has given me permission to wear leggings, and yet some people might not feel like they can wear leggings.
I think men and women both need to ask God how they should dress and allow the Holy Spirit to decide for them. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and should be treated as such, but what that looks like may differ from person to person. And I think that’s ok. The important thing is that we’re growing in love for each other, sharing the Gospel in word and action, and seeking the good of our brothers and sisters in Christ.