Friday, February 23, 2007

Modesty

Heather at Stepping Heavenward linked to the results of a Modesty Survey on the Well-Trained Mind Message Boards today. A wonderful 'virtual discussion' arose as a result, and one woman's series of posts particularly struck me. I thought I would share my response to her here. (Apparently, this is my day for writing. I am sure that it has everything to so with sore muscles that have kept me cuddling my heating pad on the sofa for the majority of the day. I promise I will post the final Women in the Church post soon. Honest. In the meantime, read this. Think. Respond.)

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I was particularly struck by your posts in response to the modesty study .

To be completely honest, I did not read the study results. I’ve been a teenage girl who dated teenage boys and I married a healthy, heterose*ual male who has eyes and natural inclinations and is very open talking with me about them. I’ve walked through the local mall and along American beaches. I watch TV. I have observed and experienced what men/ teenage boys find attractive, distracting, etc.

I first read your response stating that you wanted to do a word study in Scripture on the word “lust”. That would be a very interesting study! I am sure it would lead to exaggerated desires of all kinds and not just s*x. What struck me about that post was your statement “I just can’t conceive of a God who would both create a visually stimulated gender and also set His creation up for sin by making lust sin.”

I completely agree with you that our passions are given to us by God and that the male body was created with woman’s pleasure in mind and visa versa (this is evident in Song of Solomon). However, I don’t believe that we were “set up” by God. We were given desire and passion as a gift. Lust is the perversion of that passion. If God created everything and without sin, then sin must be perversions of things that were created… evil is a perversion of good, lust is a perversion of se*ual desire, obesity/ gluttony is a perversion of sustenance/ feasting, etc. God’s plan was for man to desire his wife (I am assuming that all this is visa versa for wives to husbands, but I don’t want to type it every time, so just work with me… *grin*). Obviously, part of man’s choice of a wife will be driven, in part, by who he is attracted to but that attraction has an ultimate goal… to physically join with and have a family with a woman. Ogling models, cheerleaders, or the neighbor’s wife does not further this goal. Will the eyes be drawn in these instances? Probably. Will thoughts fly through the mind? Probably. It is the nature of sin. We are sinners. We can’t help but sin (Romans 5:19-21). However, we do have a choice as to how we respond to our sin. We have a responsibility to confess and repent of it (Ezekiel 18:29-32). As C.S. Lewis more eloquently put it:

You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act -- that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theater by simply bringing a covered plate onto the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us.

Another comment in that post (“What I usually read in these threads is *extra* Biblical.”), didn’t strike me as much until I read:

I believe, from my own life experience and observation, if acting immorally or in sin is an issue in a person's life, it's between that person and God to change.

I don't believe that a person ready and wanting to change asks *us* to change for them. At least not normal, regular things such as fashionable dress. Or drinking normally. Or normal, healthy use of credit cards. Or using prescription drugs according to doctor's orders.

I completely agree with you that, as Christians, we must analyze these things in the light of Scripture and not in the light of personal experience. Thus, I found it ironic that you chose to argue this next point in light of your personal experience. I, too, have the tendency to pepper my arguments with personal anecdotes. However, when discussing matters of Scriptural obedience, Scripture alone should be argued.

As to the point you make (“I don’t believe that a person ready and wanting to change…”), the Scripture is very clear on this point. Individuals are responsible for their own sin and cannot (and should not) pawn-off the culpability for their sinful actions onto others (it didn’t work for Adam or Eve in Genesis 3:12-19). However, Scripture is also clear that those who have been recipients of Grace have a responsibility to others. Romans 14 discusses principles of conscience. Although we have a great deal of latitude to judge certain issues for ourselves (often referred to as “Christian liberty”) and our thoughtful, Scriptural analysis and conclusion resulting in an act of faith on our part causes our action to not be considered sinful (within the parameters of God), we still have an obligation to the judgments and beliefs of others even if they may be in opposition to our views. Placing our opinion/ conviction second to the opinion/ conviction of a brother shows love and is commanded by God. I Corinthians 10:23-24 puts it more concisely:

All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.

As Americans, we tend to cling very tightly to our “rights.” No one else can tell us how to dress, what to eat, what music to listen to, who to be friends with, etc. This is a good policy for a government. However, the issue we are discussing is not one of American culture. We are discussing the issue of dress within the context of the Church. As followers of Christ, we have an obligation not to tempt another in their area of weakness. In the specific case of the survey, a group of Christian girls asked a group of Christian boys to express to them what forms of dress may tempt them. The boys obliged. The girls are now responsible to act accordingly with the information. Are they responsible if a boy lusts after them despite how they are dressed? No. Are they responsible to choose their clothes, speech and actions with the righteousness of their spiritual brothers in mind? Absolutely.

I will admit that the “stumbling block” passages have been twisted to support pharisaical behavior. This is another effect of sin. However, because someone misuses the command doesn’t mean that it doesn’t apply. We must remain obedient while at the same time protecting ourselves from pharisaism (Matthew 23:24-26).

This post is getting rather long, and my tired brain is losing track of all the points I was planning to make, so I will leave it at that. Thank you for reading this far and for sharing your opinions (this has been a great thread to read and has brought up great topics for analysis). Please forgive all my typos and weird perversions of grammar.


2 comments:

Nan said...

Very well said... I know I probably sound like I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth because I don't think that acknowledgement of beauty of the opposite sex (or the desire to be attractive) is sinful, besides that everything we do/think/say is stained with sin, it's when these desires are taken out of their Biblical context.

I definitely agree that we ought to do our best to keep from causing people to stumble. "Whatever is not of faith is of sin." Still, some of the questions in the survey, (that I guess the girls themselves posed) to me, seemed sort of OCD. (ie. How does the strap of a bathing suit sticking out of the collar of a shirt rank on the turn-on scale... I had to chuckle at that one.)

Your post was well thought out and well written. Thanks for it!

Nan

Heather_in_WI said...

Hooah!


You said this much more eloquently and coherently than I did.

My experience with modesty went from Christian upbringing & a normal view of women's clothing -- to extremely promiscious lifestyle (barely there and meant to attract!)--- to my fundy church (no jeans! long hair!)--- to my reformed church (we are not under the law, but grace!).

That said, I now believe modesty *is* important and that we are not to willfully cause our brothers to stumble by dressing in a way we know causes them to stumble. I was particularily smug (bad attitude, I know) to see that *jeans* did not cause the boys to stumble, despite everything I was taught in those years I was IFB.

Blessings!
~Heather