by Ernest Liu
about the author

  • Random Snippets
    • How Not to Ask For Counseling
      My pastor told me that when most people go to them for advice, they don't really go for the advice. They just want to hear the pastor affirm or justify their concerns.
    • 18 Years
      I just found out that my family friend, who I refer to as Uncle Ed, spent eighteen years in prison in China when he was younger. He could have spent zero years if he just renounced his faith.
    • Eternally Focused
      Reading about this kind of crazy love Francis has for Lisa is quite extraordinary. Often times we are compelled to have a Christ-centered relationship, but what does that really look like? It looks weird… really weird. From what I see in the Scriptures, it is extreme and counter-cultural.
  • Christians get hot in the summer!

    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!

    Of course this post isn’t about having fun in the sun. It’s about the (confusingly controversial) loathsome topic of modesty.

    Before I get into the dirt of it all, I’d like to point out a couple of things.

    1. This post is written in light of the scientifically proven reality that men are much more visually stimulated than women. Though I write in respect to this sexual distinction, it does not negate the fact that many women struggle with lust, as do men with modesty.
    2. When I talk about lust in this article, I am only referring to unholy sexual thoughts. I am not referring to catcalls, sexual assaults, and the like. Our secular culture only seems to ridicule unholy outward actions, but followers of Christ are held to a different 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

    Reactions to “modesty”

    Some girls find this topic annoying. They see their brothers frolicking along the beachside without a shirt, ready people out for having double-standards. Others feel that their attire is already lovingly considerate of their brothers. And some never bother 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. Also, visual triggers differ from man to man.

    To make matters worse, we live in a twisted generation where unlimited erotic activity is praised. Sex is watered down to a fleshly transaction where the only qualification is consent. Our confused culture praises porn stars for their sexual autonomy while demonizing men for objectifying women, failing to realize that pornography thrives on the objectification of women.

    Why do we talk about modesty but not about controlling our thoughts?

    A sister once shared a concern with me: why don’t we focus on encouraging the men to exercise control when it comes to sexual thought? It’s not fair that she only ever hears about the need to be modest when the sin is clearly committed by the man!

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

    Some men form accountability groups primarily to fight lust. When fellowships separate men and women, there’s a high chance that men are lectured on lust. 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 than women will confront modesty.

    If you’re a girl who is really curious about this, just talk to a devout male leader in your church. Ask them, “I don’t want any details or anything, but does the topic of sexual purity come up when you talk with other guys at church?” He should almost definitely say yes. If he says no, you may seriously 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.

    On another note, we talk about our modesty, too. It’s a tough topic, because our frequent immodesty has a habit of manifesting in subtle ways.

    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 even had 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 is inappropriate for brothers to judge girls so quickly, to assume that they dress in a certain way to lure wandering eyes. Girls often choose their attire for comfort or for practicality. 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. We are only immodest when we sport attire with the intention to drag someone’s mind through the gutter. Modesty is not a clothing issue. Modesty is a heart issue.

    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. Someone may tell you, later that day, that what you are wearing may be a strong catalyst for lustful thoughts. When that happens, don’t feel guilty, because your heart was right before God when you put it on. It’s up to you to decide how to process the feedback when you choose your future outfits.

    Remember, your choices do help others fight lust!

    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 brothers’ 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 when eating with others, we must be mindful of others when we chose our outfits. Most men know that a single sight can 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. While your wardrobe shouldn’t be strictly controlled by how others may perceive you, it is good to be informed.

    I know many girls who have helped me fight the battle against lust by considering me when they chose their attire. To all of you—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 from which we are told to flee (1 Cor 6:18), and you are helping us do just that.

    Final Thoughts

    Have fun with your summer outfits. 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.