by Ernest Liu
about the author

  • Random Sniplets
  • Hot Summer Christians

    It’s approaching the time of year when the sun shines high and bright. You know what that means… time to whip out that summer attire!

    Fine. You caught me. I’m not writing about fun in the sun. I’m writing about the loathsome topic of modesty.

    As a disclaimer, this post is written in light of the scientifically proven reality that men are much more visually stimulated then women. Though I write in respect to this gender distinction (whether biological or cultural), it does not negate the fact that many women struggle with lust, as do men with modesty.

    As a clarification, when lust is mentioned in this post, it only refers to sexually unholy thoughts. Nothing in this post refers to atrocious acts like catcalls and sexual assaults. Followers of Christ are held to a high standard:

    I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

    –Jesus, Matthew 5:28

    The Response to Modesty Reaches Far and Wide

    Some Christian girls find this topic annoying. They see their brothers shirtlessly frolicking along the beachside and ready their double-standard label gun. Others aren’t affected by the topic. Perhaps they feel that their attire is already lovingly considerate of their brothers. Or perhaps they never bothered to think about it in the first place.

    A few even disregard modesty on the idea that their Christian brothers should simply control their wandering eyes and minds.

    What I’ve observed is that most of my sisters are utterly confused about modesty. It’s such a nebulous and subjective expectation. Most women aren’t visually stimulated the way men are, and therefore don’t know what may be deemed appropriate to wear. To add to the confusion, visual triggers differs from man to man.

    To make matters worse, we live in a twisted generation where lewdness is praised, where porn stars advocate prostitution and magazine racks are stacked with photoshopped bodies. Welcome to the sexual revolution, where society teaches us that women should be as sexy and provocative as they want, because it “empowers” them. Shame to any man who would bring up “modesty!”

    When It’s Just the Men

    Once upon a time, a sister shared her concern with me: why don’t we focus on encouraging the men to exercise control when it comes to sexual thought? Why does she only hear about modesty?

    To all my beloved and understandably frustrated sisters–sexual purity is a big topic in male circles!

    Some men band into accountability groups just to fight lust. When youth groups separate boys and girls to talk about relevant topics, boys often tackle lust while girls tackle modesty. I’ve discipled three pairs of guys, and I always bring up the topic of lust. In a decent church, men will confront the topic of sexual purity more frequently then women will confront modesty.

    “Hey. I don’t want details or anything, but does the topic of sexual purity come up when you talk with other guys from church?” Ask that to a devout male leader in your church. If he says no, you may want to consider switching churches. A healthy church deals with the congregation’s sin, and in today’s hyper-sexualized culture, lust is every man’s battle.

    We don’t normally share about this stuff with our lady friends, and there’s a reason for that. Perhaps that’s why girls rarely hear about it, and maybe that’s why they feel that it’s unfair whenever they are confronted with the modesty topic.

    Fair enough. I get it. This is largely why I’m writing about this topic in the first place, to let my sisters know that we aren’t trying to pin our sin on you. Our thought life is something we must take seriously, to love God and to love you.

    I thought you’d also like to know–we talk about our modesty, too. We often suffer from a heart of immodesty. It comes out in our interactions, and from time to time, it comes out in the way we dress ourselves.

    Understanding the Girls

    For much of my life, I didn’t understand why modesty was so hard for girls. It didn’t occur to me that girls got so much pressure from society to be beautiful and sexy. They’re taught that there’s no difference between dressing attractively and dressing to attract.

    I’ve seen brothers quickly judge a girl by her attire. “Oh my goodness, she’s wearing yoga pants! She’s wearing a sports bra! What’s she trying to get?!”

    It was inappropriate for him to judge her so quickly, to assume that she dressed in a certain way to lure in wandering eyes. Perhaps she wore something for comfort or for practicality’s sake. Case in point:

    My wardrobe was pretty much free t-shirts and basketball shorts – I didn’t exactly fit that demographic most modesty talks were geared toward … And so for years I skated through church life never bothering to think that modesty applied to me until one day, while I was out running, I suddenly realized that what I was wearing was… pretty immodest.

    I wasn’t exactly thinking about modesty at the time either. I just happened to be paying attention to the cars that were driving past me along the road, when suddenly I realized that if anyone from church saw me at that moment I would probably feel really embarrassed. But why would I feel embarrassed? I wasn’t at church, and I wasn’t explicitly going out of my way to make someone stumble. I was just wearing what was comfortable for the activity that I was doing. Deciding then to take more back streets than not, I struggled with that thought for the rest of my run.

    –Monica, Summer Means Everything is Modesty

    Eventually I learned that many girls are confused about what passes as “modest.” Truth be told, it’s confusing for me too. Midriffs don’t generally cause temptation for me, but it might for a brother. Every guy is different.

    How to be Modest

    In the end, I wished that Monica did not feel embarrassed for her attire that day, because modesty ultimately isn’t about what we wear. When we suffer from immodesty, it is a heart issue. If we put on attire in attempt to drag someone’s mind through the gutter, that is when we are immodest.

    Here’s the litmus test: when you stand in the mirror in the morning, can you affirm, in all honesty before God, that your attire is pleasing to Him? If so, then you’re good. Even if someone tells you, later that day, that your outfit might be a catalyst for lustful thoughts, it’s not because you were immodest.

    How Modesty Helps Others in Purity

    In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul says that if certain food makes his brothers stumble, then he won’t eat it. He cares too much about his brother’s spiritual health to exercise his right to eat certain foods.

    A modest heart should lead you to make decisions that help others fight sin. In the same way that Paul was mindful of others when eating, we must be mindful of others when we chose our outfits. Most men know that a single sight can often lead down a spiral of lustful, sinful fantasies. While it is our fault when we fall down that abyss, we appreciate it when our sisters help us avoid it.

    To the ladies–since it is often hard to tell what kind of temptation an article of clothing may present, I encourage you to ask others in the case of uncertainty. Of course, your wardrobe shouldn’t be strictly controlled by how others may perceive you, but it may help to be informed.

    For the girls who love me and my brothers by considering our struggles with pure thoughts, thank you. Thank you so, so much. It speaks volumes that you value our relationship with God more than your outfit. Sexual immorality is one of two explicit sins we are told to flee from in the entire Bible (1 Cor 6:18), and you are helping us do just that.

    Final Thoughts

    Have fun with your summer outfits, boys and girls. Don’t be legalistic about it. Just be loving. And thank God for giving us attractive people and romantic drives, because He ultimately designed it for His glory and for our enjoyment.

    Note: This was edited on February 26, 2018 for clarity.

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