Guidelines for the Guidelines (Part 2)

4. Any rules or guidelines for modesty that fail to address the heart, particularly issues of pride or self-righteousness, or that make men’s lusts or preferences the focus of the conversation, miss the main purpose of the teaching of Scripture on the subject.

The question to ask here is: Does it work? If you can dress like an old-order Mennonite and be eaten up with pride, desiring nothing more than to draw attention to your “holy” attire, your rules have failed, man. Also, any guidelines about anything that focus on sin-management, as though you can ameliorate or eliminate sin by following this set of rules, miss the Gospel, which is pretty darn important.

5. While Scripture does give some broad standards related to dress, what specifically constitutes modest dress varies among nations, cultures, regions, and times.

Public nudity (as in, revealed genitalia) seems pretty clearly off-limits in Scripture, as does dressing with the intention of being taken for a member of the opposite sex. Apart from that, who am I to tell a South Asian woman to stop wearing her modest, culturally-appropriate shalwar kameez and start wearing only long skirts or dresses? Or to tell a Papuan man to stop wearing his culturally-masculine layered grass skirt and put on a button-down and slacks?

6. Christians should strive to dress, speak, carry themselves, and generally behave in a way that best befits their gospel witness, factoring in their climate, local culture, jobs and responsibilities, body type, preferences, etc.

This means that someone ministering to Northern European Muslims is not going to dress, speak, or act exactly the same way as a someone making meals in an un-air-conditioned Central American orphanage. Nor is a Christian interviewing for a job at a Chicago law firm going to dress or behave exactly the same way as a Christian running a surf shop in Maui. And I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a slender size four is going to have to watch out for different things, both in her dress and comportment, than a buxom size fourteen. There is no Christian uniform, and there is no universal “neckline” or “skirt length” rule, either.

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2 thoughts on “Guidelines for the Guidelines (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: “Women Aren’t as Visual as Men” and Other Dangerous Lies | A Wilderness Life

  2. Yes. My eyes were opened to this so very clearly when I read one little word:

    “Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,”

    It’s there in the middle: “respectable” and it makes it so clear to me. It was clear in NW China and clear in Turkey and clear on a beach in the Mediterranean and clear in the Texas summer heat.

    WHAT IS RESPECTABLE? Is what I’m wearing RESPECTABLE in the place that I am wearing it? Do people (average people, whether or not they’re looking at me with any awareness that I am an image-bearer of God) look at me and automatically know I’m to be respected?

    For me, this is where this whole issue of clothing rests. It’s a heart issue that has real-world implications. There ARE things I can wear that toe the line, or that would bring into question, whether or not I am respectable.

    So for me, it comes to: am I operating (in my wardrobe choices) as an obviously respectable woman, thus bringing no shame or concern to the name of Christ?

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