We who have believed in Jesus Christ have been called to bear our cross. This means we are going to suffer trouble as we seek to live for Christ and lead others to the blessings of the gospel. There are great hurts and hassles involved in bringing the truth to people and people to the truth. It’s God’s way of doing things. Yet in the first chapter of II Corinthians the Apostle Paul expressed his readiness to suffer for the joy of bringing joy in Christ to others. To bring “consolation and salvation” to others means for the one bringing to be afflicted, and for this Paul was willing.
Now there are many ways in which that affliction for the truth’s sake comes to us or is felt by us. It might be the trouble of leaving behind what we want to do and where we might wish to live or the way in which we want to live, and going to a place of lesser comforts or greater uncertainties. As Gladys Aylward, who left the settled, predictable life with which she was familiar, liquidated her assets, and placed her life in God’s hands as she actually set out across the Asian continent, right through the unknowns of Siberia, headed toward the further unknowns of China. She went alone to find and join the work of one lady in that vast land of mystery. And God turned her commitment and trouble to joy in others who heard the truth of Christ through her, and still others who have read or heard of her courage and have followed in a similar resolve, and still others yet whose lives these have touched. That trouble might come to us through our giving up of time, talents, or resources which we might naturally be inclined to spend on ourselves. It might come by putting ourselves through the pain and risk and loss of speaking for Christ, knowing that to do so might lose friends or make enemies. I’ve made enemies over the years. In some cases those who used to be friends. Maybe I’m more of a Jeremiah heart than a tougher Isaiah type, but I must admit, it hurts! It’s not a part of God’s work I enjoy. But I have it to do. It might come through speaking things or requiring things that oppose the opinions of others, other believers even, things that so run against the grain of their way of life and against society as a whole that they consider us foolish. It’s one such issue that I would consider with you now.
For some time I’ve felt the need to speak again about the way some of our folks dress, especially when we come here to church. It’s a concern that tends to keep coming back. Obviously because it’s one we don’t want to let go of. I’m afraid it’s an issue that is not as surface as the clothes we wear, but one that goes deep, running closer to the core of our existence than we might realize. Simply for the reason that to run against the approach of the world around us is to run into the reproach of the world around. It is to attract their scorn, and it’s that reproach that most folks are more desperate to avoid than they might care to admit. A good many are just plain scared to not dress and live like the world. Thus I would consider again with you the reasons why we wear what we wear . . . or don’t wear. Please consider what I say. May the Lord give us wisdom in His will.
It’s the broader biblical principles that we look for in our search for guidance in this matter. Why? Well, because we’re not going to find the clear statement that “thou shalt not allow thine hemline above thy knees”, or “thou shalt not allow longer than 10 seconds to wedge thyself into thy stretch demins”. But there are principles to be found that offer guidance. Will you listen? Could I ask you to please guard against the temptation to lightly dismiss my words as the troubled perspective of an old buzzard so desperately behind the times it just isn’t funny? Perhaps in a measure I do actually know what I’m talking about? Maybe it’s time you really listened with an open heart to what pleases the Lord in your clothing choices, or those of your children?
# 1 – Principle of Transformation
Rom. 12:1-2 – “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind”
It’s a well-known portion. Perhaps one of the most ignored passages in all the Bible. Please understand that we have here a pair of commands from the mouth of God. Don’t be conformed, but be transformed. The positive and negative of the same movement of change in an obedient child of God, describing the true essence of a growing Christian life. Don’t you be conforming to the world’s way. Rather be allowing God’s transforming work in your life, both in your outward actions and in the renewing of your inward purposes and way of thinking. When the inward is put right the outward comes right. To such godly thinking and living we are called. And what will be the nature of such actions or changes? We will no longer be conformed to the world and its ways. What will be the result of our now becoming different from the world? We may appear far-out and even funny to them. The obvious assumption implied here is that there is a natural tendency to conform, from which our God feels the need to firmly warn us away. So there is an obvious question. Are you conforming to the world or transforming in the matter of your outward dress? Do you fit right in with the world, with never a raised eyebrow from them in this regard? Or are you tending to receive comment, spoken or otherwise, about the need to conform, to join the popular vibe and not look so drab and “dark ages”?
II Cor. 5:17 – “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.”
Christians are new creatures. We are different! Vastly different from what we were before. As hugely different as an animal is different from a man, or a corpse is different from a living, breathing person. The change in we who are now “in Christ” should be just as self-evident.
So when people are truly saved they are changed! God’s holy nature is now in them and they begin to think like their heavenly Father. Their attitudes and actions begin to change accordingly, including their ideas about what they wear. No longer does the true child of God feel the need to conform to the world’s push.
Question – Does the way I dress show that I am changed into a new creation – God’s own child?
# 2 – Principle of Fleeing Youthful Lusts
It was God, through the Apostle Paul, who commanded young Timothy to “Flee also youthful lusts” (II Tim. 2:22). We live in a world that is full of sexual messages and attractions. Where would modern advertising or entertainment be without fleshly attractive men and women and revealing dress? God’s answer when we are faced with the temptation to do or want something wrong is to run away, to think about something else, to remove the temptation, or ourselves from it. To watch the guys watch the girls is to know what they think about. Men, both young and old, are stirred in a fleshly way by curves and cleavage. So God-fearing ladies, both young and old, who desire to lead the thoughts of others to the Lord rather than to lower things, will not be inclined to display themselves to the public! It’s part of fleeing, of helping others out of sin rather than into it. Guys and girls who are wise and think like God thinks are careful about how they dress their bodies. Because they don’t want to lead others to think and desire things they should not be thinking and desiring, things they should in fact be running from. Again, men particularly are motivated by sight, by clothing that displays flesh and form, whether through tight clothing or the scarcity of it. Therefore what we wear in public should not be form displaying! I’m not talking about attire that leaves no visible flesh or form, as some cultures demand. I speak of avoiding clothing that purposely accentuates or draws attention to our form. We see how the women of the world dress. They often present themselves in a way that reveals flesh and form; tight, clinging clothing, or little of it. God forbid that a child of God should be mistaken for a child of the world! It is not for us to allow ourselves or our children to be on display in this way.
In Song of Sol. 8:8-9 the brothers of the Shulamite woman speak about their sister. They state that if their sister should be a “wall”, the brothers would reward her. But if their sister should turn out to be a “door”, i.e. loose in her morals, the brothers would be forced to build restrictions around her. There is a kind of dress or presentation that suggests one an open door or loose or fleshly minded, and there is a way of presentation that displays one as a wall, as off-limits. I am sorry if you don’t agree but it’s true. Ask any man. Compare Prov. 7:10, where Wisdom speaks of the temptress wearing the “attire of an harlot”. There is a kind of dress or presentation that is consistent with the work of a harlot. A harlot dresses like a door (with a welcome mat). Unfortunately yesterday’s “attire of an harlot” has become today’s fashion! Please be wise to see it, and willing to acknowledge the truth of it.
Questions – Does the way I dress lead others to lust or desire wrong things? Is there a better way I could present myself to my society that would help others think right and do right?
In Philippians 1:9-11 Paul described some of the things he was praying for his friends at Philippi. One thing he prayed for them was that they might “approve things that are excellent”, that they would be wise to select the most excellent choices in life. May the Lord lead us to the best ways or choices in all of the practical details of our lives before Him.
# 3 – Principle of Allegiance
The word “allegiance” refers to loyalty, who you’re loyal to or friends with. If you’re a German then your loyalties are with the German team. And the ref’s an idiot for calling your striker off-sides, discounting the goal! If you’re Brazilian then your loyalties are with the Brazilian team. And man that was a brilliant call! What an astute and perceptive referee! Throughout the Bible we are taught that there are two kingdoms in existence on this earth. It’s God and Satan at work here; Satan working through the world and lust, and God working through the Word and the Spirit. Two sides or kingdoms or families or houses. With which side does your allegiance lie? If you’re saved then you are God’s child. You’re on His side now. Is it an obvious thing? Every sub-culture has its own particular dress code. Go to a surfing shop and you’ll see there all of the right type of thing the surfing society should wear. Go to a biking shop and there is all of the embarrassing things a cyclist must wear if “properly” kitted out. Go to a motorbike shop and it’s the same. There’s a form of dress that displays what culture you claim for your own. If what you wear passes with the people of this world then could it perhaps be the uniform of their culture, of the other kingdom?
I John 2:15-16 – “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
Don’t love or display allegiance to that side when you really belong to this side. Which side do you stand with? Then stand! Make it obvious! There are ways of dressing that are pleasing to God and show that you stand with Him, and there are ways of dressing that suggest you’re with Satan’s side. Ask the Lord if you don’t believe my words!
Question – Does the way I dress show that I stand with God or Satan?
# 4 – Principle of Modesty
I Timothy 2:9-10 – “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”
Yes, God does speak rather specifically about our dress. What does “modest” mean? Check your dictionary. Mine says things like proper, decent, pure, not displaying the body, dressing with dignity. The “broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array” bit speaks of that which is showy, the vanity of an undue interest in attracting attention to our appearance. There’s a way of dressing that is more reserved, that does not try to draw attention to what’s showing, what’s on the outside, but rather what’s on the inside (I Pet. 3:3-4), or one’s works of service (I Tim. 2:10). God’s point here is that we should dress with dignity and decency, with reserve rather than vanity. You should dress in such a way that people remember you, not what you were wearing or displaying; you as a person, not you as an enticing pound of flesh or a dazzling bit of tinsel.
For the young woman who would attract the interest of a good man, please allow me to offer a word of advice? Understand the nature of a godly man. Such a man recognizes wrong attraction and interest stirred in himself, and he recognizes the more fleshly display on a woman that stirs that in him. And he will walk away rather than be attracted to it, because his heart is after God and the godly. Such a display is only truly effective with the other kind of man, the kind willing to be stirred by a more fleshy or flashy presentation. Ungodly men! Is that what you really want for yourself my friend? Is that what you want for your daughter? Is that the kind of man to grow old with? Or the kind you will one day be sorry you ever attracted?
Questions – Does the way I dress draw attention to the way I dress? Does it display dignity and modesty and decency, or vanity and the desire to impress?
So now please allow me to get specific about what I’m hoping at least to see (or not see) here in our church meetings. And again, I understand that this is at risk of offending people, my family and friends, but a risk I must take. Because somebody must take it. Somebody must say it. I’m thinking for the most part of those among us who are before the congregation in a more public way, involved in choir or Junior Church teaching or such. Because these folks are more of an example before others, the younger ones especially. But I speak not only to them, for it’s a question of what is right for all of us as we live together in thoughtfulness here. And not only here at church, but even out from here as we seek to show forth our Saviour and show our allegiance to Him. Please understand that I’m not pointing fingers or speaking to anybody directly or particularly. I’m speaking generally. But I feel that there are certain ways of dressing that are inappropriate, certainly here in church. I’m talking about;
- Tight-fitting jeans, that “poured-in” look. The purpose of this fashion is clearly to display form.
- Short dresses and shorts.
- Form-hugging tops.
- Exposed cleavage, all pinched and propped and peeking.
Such display is inappropriate here. You may disagree with me, and if so I am sorry about that. It is not my purpose to be offensive. But on the other hand it is not my purpose to not be offensive either. You know what I mean. It is my purpose to do right and to lead you to what is right and proper before the Lord, that together we might please our Saviour in all things, and help each other to maturity in Christ. I’m not suggesting that we must dress in a formal manner here. I’m not talking formal dress but appropriate dress, modest dress. To be frank, we men should not have to contend with female form under our noses here. We do not need you improperly displaying your shape. That is not why we are here. We have enough trouble with such things out there.
So again, questions to ask yourself;
- Does the way I dress show that I am changed into a new creation, as God’s own child, no longer conforming to the world?
- Does the way I dress lead others to lust or desire wrong things?
- Is there a better way I could present myself to my society that would help others think and do right?
- Does the way I dress show that I stand with God or Satan?
- Does the way I dress draw attention to the way I dress?
But the bigger question, the deeper question is this;
Am I willing to bear reproach for the Lord, to face the scorn of the other side, because I choose to be different, to be decent, the way of dignity?