Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world…” (Romans 12:2)
I don’t know about ya’ll, but that one verse has the ability to convict me almost any time I read it. I instantly ask myself, “How have I been conforming lately? Where are some areas I am lazily accepting the world’s pattern instead of challenging myself to live against it?”
This world we live in as Christians has a way of subtly and outright influencing us. It’s a tricky path to navigate because we are not swept up and away to heaven the second we meet Jesus; we are left here with a mission to “let our light shine” and “fish for men” and “make disciples of all nations.”
What glorious callings! But how difficult to live out. Especially when we don’t have role models living it out perfectly.
One area that I find it particularly hard to not “be conformed to the pattern of this world” is how we, as women, dress ourselves. I read an article the other day about how modesty isn’t the woman’s job, but the man’s job. It was written by a father who is “no longer teaching [his] sons to look away,” but to somehow look at scantily-dressed women and see the woman as a highly-valuable soul. He even went so far as to point out that men who averted their eyes were somehow doing something wrong.
I feel the need to respond and to explain both the reasons why I’m modest and the not-reasons that I’m modest. I also believe these reasons go beyond personal conviction and should be applicable to every Christian woman.
REASONS TO NOT BE MODEST
1. Do not be modest because you are ashamed of your body.
When I tell people that I don’t wear bikinis, they instantly respond with “But, why? You’re beautiful!” They assume that I am somehow embarrassed about my appearance. I know I am a beautiful woman. Yes, there are areas I would change, but overall I’m proud of my body and the way that I look! On top of that, my husband says he’s proud of the way I look. If that doesn’t give me double the reason to want to show it off, I don’t know what does. So shame is not a reason I am modest.
2. Do not be modest because it is your duty.
This one may seem strange… But another typical response I get to modesty is, “But it’s the guy’s job to guard his eyes/thoughts, so why make it your job?” Easy. I’m not making it my job. Someone who is struggling with lust is going to struggle with lust whether I’m on the beach in my underwear or not.
But if I can be a safe place for a Christian man’s eyes to land for two seconds, then, even though I’m not trying to get rid of the struggle, I may be making it a little easier on him.
3. Do not be modest because your body is an object.
I have had people accuse me of agreeing with “rape culture,” which, in a nutshell, claims that rapes wouldn’t happen if women were more modest. I know I am more than a body. And I know that my body is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” But it is because I know that my body is more than an object that I work so hard to keep it sacred.
4. Do not be modest because you think “men can’t help it.”
I am not modest because I think men are animals, or carnal brutes that can’t control themselves. I come from a family with six awesome brothers, a god-fearing father, and I am married to an amazing man. I know men of self-control and men who are daily walking as Christian men ought to walk. But these men aren’t perfect, and they need women who are going to stand alongside of them and support them, not just say, “Hey, I know this is hard, but try to focus on my face while I lay out and get a tan in whatever I want to wear.”
REASONS YOU SHOULD BE MODEST
1. Modesty loves and serves the Christian men in your life.
I am surrounded by Christian men who are brothers in Christ. They are daily fighting the good fight and striving for purity. I want to do anything I can as a sister in Christ to encourage that fight for purity, not discourage it. Having so many biological brothers, it upsets me to no end when I see the Christian girls in their life that show off their beautiful bodies around them. It speaks so much disrespect to the purity they are trying so hard to attain.
Find one Christian young man who can look at you in the eyes and tell you that it is easy to walk in purity when there are half-naked women around every corner. Then ask them if modesty makes a difference in their lives. Then make your decision.
Again, I can’t emphasize this enough, it is not my job, but my honor to serve them in modesty.
2. Modesty requires humility.
I love fashion. I love learning how to dress my body type and throw as many colors and patterns into one outfit as possible. But when I go out in whatever I want to wear because I want to wear it, it is so, so selfish. Ephesians 2:3 calls us to do “nothing out of selfish ambition,” and goes on to encourage us to use Christ as an example! If I am called to lay down my life to serve those around me, it should seem obvious that laying down my right to wear whatever I want when I want is far easier than shedding my lifeblood.
The apostle Paul was willing to give up his right to eat meat for the sake of others!
When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” (1 Corinthians 8:12-13)
I want to have this humility that is willing to lay down anything destructive in my life if it means I can love others better. Even if it’s something like eating meat or wearing what I want.
3. Modesty doesn’t hinder the Gospel.
We endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the Gospel of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 9:12)
I am called to “be not conformed to the pattern of this world” and let the light of Christ shine in my life. If I look like the world, what good does that do? I am making myself an obstacle in the way of the Gospel! How humiliating would it be to reach heaven, be in the presence of my King, and for Him to say, “Casey, you blended in”?
I don’t want to just make it to heaven, I want to be so different and full of light and so desperately in love with God and humanity that I am taking a crowd to heaven with me. Light doesn’t make a difference when it shines into light, and light doesn’t make a difference when it tries to blend into the darkness or not “make waves.”
Light is bright and offensive and the complete opposite of the dark.
Ladies, this means we need to look different. If we are blending in and looking like everyone else, we will not be living out the Gospel effectively. And this means we need to have this attitude that is willing to give up anything in order that the Gospel may flow effectively in and out of our lives.
4. Modesty serves my husband.
One of the greatest gifts I can give to my husband is a 100% right to my body. Completely and entirely to no one else. This does not just mean sexually, but visually as well.
Even before I knew Jon or knew he would be my husband, I knew that one day I was going to be married to a man who was thankful that I saved myself for his eyes, and his eyes only. And now that we are married, Jon has told me over and over that my modesty honors him and shows him respect.
My modesty tells to the world that my body is for one person to look at, admire, and enjoy.
5. Modesty serves men’s wives and future wives.
It’s a shame that if Jon and I go to the beach, I won’t invite some of my Christian women friends. Why? Because I know that they won’t be modest and respect my husband’s eyes.
But it is so refreshing to be around a group of women who are respecting me by respecting my husband.
My husband does not need them to be modest; he is a man of character who runs hard after purity whether they are modest or not. But it shows an above-and-beyond act of respect to me when they are standing beside me contending for my husband’s purity.
In the same way, respect the single men’s future wives. Be the kind of girl their future wives would be proud to have around them, supporting them as single men in their efforts to save their eyes for their future wife. Ladies, let’s be the women that these men’s wives and future wives would be thankful for.
6. Modesty respects your body as a temple.
This is the most important reason why I am modest. My body is not my own. When I became a Christian, my body became an instrument for God’s purposes, a holy place of worship.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?… For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16)
Why would God want His holy, pure, and unselfish Spirit to reside in a scantily-clad temple? One that is not even thinking of her Christian brothers (or their wives) when they get dressed in the morning? How does that bring Him glory? How does that make Him proud?
I want to be a glorious temple for His Spirit. I want Him to point at me and say, “Wow, she’s representing me well.” At the end of the day, I can’t make others holy. Being modest does mean the men around me don’t fall into sin. But it honors God that His temple is holy and is encouraging holiness around her.
Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” (Romans 6:13)
I want nothing more than for my body to be an “instrument of righteousness,” and I want to run far, far away from my body being an “instrument for unrighteousness.”
I know I fail, and I get lazy about what I wear. And I am so thankful that I married someone who will remind me of how important it is to treat my body like a holy temple when I don’t feel like wearing anything but leggings. But I am always going to be striving to make this temple one that is more holy, and one that is used as an instrument of righteousness and not unrighteousness.