Modesty: Have We Been Doing It Wrong?

I have debated writing this post for a while for a few reasons. One of these is that there are simply hundreds of blog posts on modesty, modesty standards, the lack of modesty, having a modest heart, etc. Some push a certain standard, advocating against bikinis; others claim modesty is solely a heart issue.

In writing this post, I wanted to stay away from defining certain standards—so you don’t have to worry about being condemned for wearing a bikini. I won’t tell you that you’re causing your brother in Christ to sin every time you wear shorts. My hope is that this post won’t be condemning, though it may be convicting. Modesty is a touchy subject and I’ve tried to be honest and reflect the truth of God’s Word.

And so, without further ado…another opinion on modesty.

There are so many opinions on modesty out there that it can be overwhelming. But have we been looking at modesty with the wrong perspective? Is it really what we believe it to be? Click here to read more!

If you were raised in the church, you probably heard many Sunday school lessons and youth devotionals on purity. And if you were a girl, you probably heard just as much about the importance of modesty.

Christian modesty standards are all over the place. Some churches believe women should wear only knee-length (or longer) skirts at all times. Others see no issue with wearing bikinis. Wearing shorts to the Sunday service in one church may be the norm, while in another you would get disapproving stares.

No matter what kind of church you were raised in, have we been doing this whole modesty thing wrong?

More importantly, what does the Bible actually say about modesty?

The Modesty Equation

Let’s face it. Most churches’ modesty standards are made up. They are created by what the church believes is appropriate—the opinion of the church’s leaders. Most quote this verse to back their modesty claims:

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, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. (1 Timothy 2:9 – 10)

However, I think that this verse is somewhat taken out of context. The verse before says this:

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves… (verse 8)

I think that Paul is focusing on behavioural modesty here, although he also gives clear instructions for apparel. He says that women should cloth themselves in respectable clothes. He says that they shouldn’t focus on their hair, or how much their clothes and jewelry cost, but on doing good. He also says that we should dress ourselves “…with modesty and self-control…”, behavioural characteristics.

Most people take this verse to mean meeting certain modesty standards. But then they go and pair it with this verse:

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)

So we end up with this equation:

1 Timothy 2:9 + Matthew 5:28 = women need to be modest and not make men stumble.

Stumbling Blocks

Where did we get the idea that it is a woman’s responsibility to not create a stumbling block to men?

In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about stumbling blocks in the context of eating certain foods.

Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. (1 Cor. 8:8  – 11)

Essentially, Paul is saying that whether we choose to eat a certain food or not does not make us better or worse in God’s eyes. What matters is how we look out for each other. Yes, we have a right to choose—but that choice may get in the way of someone else. We need to be willing to give up our “right” for the good of our brother or sister. If we are knowingly causing another to stumble, we will be answerable to Christ.

That being said, I do not think it is solely a woman’s responsibility to keep men’s minds pure, just like men are not responsible for keeping women’s minds pure.

Say you’re at a friend’s house for supper. If they offered you pie and ice cream for dessert and you accepted, could you blame them for breaking your diet? Of course not. You made the choice to accept. Hopefully, you wouldn’t get upset with your friend because you broke your diet.

It’s the same with modesty. When you see a guy shirtless, you have a choice whether or not you’re going to lust after him. When a guy sees a girl in a swimsuit, he has a choice to keep his thoughts pure or allow himself to continue down that path of thought. When we stand before God and he calls us to account for our thoughts, we can’t say to Him, “Look God, I know it’s wrong to lust, but they were dressed provocatively! How was I supposed to resist? She should’ve known better than to dress that way.”

Romans says this:

So then each one off us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (Romans 14:12 – 13)

This verse makes it pretty clear that we will all be responsible for our own actions, words, and thoughts. We are each held accountable before God, independent of anyone else.

Everyone is going to have different standards of modesty. So how do we decide what’s modest and what isn’t? (The bikini debate gets pretty tiring!) Maybe we’ve been asking the wrong question all along. Maybe the best question should be this: “Does this, whether it be clothing, words, or actions, show that I love God and others more than myself?”

At the end of the day, how you dress is up to you. God is not going to condemn you because of your wardrobe. You are responsible for how you dress and your motivation for doing so. The modesty “standard” is different for everyone.

Please, please, please do not hear what I’m not saying. I am not saying that this means you can go out and wear whatever you want. I’m not saying that guys should just deal with it. While we should be mindful of how our actions and wardrobe affect others, we shouldn’t be motivated by guilt or shame. Our choices should all be made out of love.

What does “modest” mean to you?

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Are Christians Supposed to be Tolerant?

In a world where intolerance of anything is condemned, it can be hard to stand up for your faith. But what's the line between standing up for the truth and being judgmental? Click here to find out!

Have you ever been asked your opinion on something, and you knew that your opinion would not be welcomed? You know, that one issue that the world doesn’t agree with you on? Something everyone’s supposed to be tolerant of?

I’ve been asked by non-Christian friends if I think homosexuality is okay, and have even been challenged on this issue in a sociology class (and I wasn’t even the one doing the presentation). As a Christian with a biblical perspective on homosexuality, how do you answer that honestly without seeming like a terrible person?

Simple answer: you can’t. But seriously. How do you stand up for your faith, especially when Christians have a reputation of being judgmental, intolerant people?

Most Christians live by the “don’t judge anyone” motto. We are instructed not to judge others. The familiar passage from Matthew 7:1 – 2 is used to as a reference point:

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

The chapter continues for the next few verses, instructing us to examine ourselves and remove the “planks” in our eyes before telling our brother/sister about the “speck” in his or her eye.

I believe we as Christians hide behind this verse so many times—yes, hide. There are issues that we simply don’t deal with because of this verse. We don’t want to be seen as judgmental or seem intolerant. We want to be seen as the “good kind” of Christians—not the arrogant, self-righteous ones. We want to show the world we love it. After all, Jesus Himself told us very clearly not to judge.

But…hold on. Jesus judged. Jesus had incredibly strong words for the Pharisees hypocritical actions because they looked righteous, but their hearts were far from God. Jesus told people that unless they repented, they would not have everlasting life. In the Old Testament, God brought judgment on His people over and over again as they strayed from Him. In 1 Corinthians 5:1 – 5, Paul instructs the church to kick out a man who has been practicing sexual immorality, with the ultimate goal of bringing him to repentance and healing.

Is it okay to judge or not?

Jesus told us not to judge, then He went and judged people. Let’s take a closer look at Matthew 7.

The passage starts with Jesus’ words: “Judge not.” We tend to read that verse and just kind of stop there. But Jesus doesn’t. He says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” To clarify, Jesus continues to say that the measure we use to judge others will be used to judge us as well. In other words, you have to be able to take whatever you dish out.

Please let me be clear. I don’t think this verse is saying: Hey, as long as you’re not prideful, you can call others on their pride. I think Jesus was making a point: we can’t judge each other because whatever guidelines we use to judge will be flawed, since we’re flawed people.

When we point out others’ flaws, it is usually an indicator that we’re insecure about ourselves. It means that we feel the need to prove ourselves (and therefore, tearing others down) and that we aren’t really walking in God’s love and grace if we seek others’ approval.

We will all be judged according to God’s perfect Law. He is the true Judge, and no one can escape this judgment, although those who have been redeemed by Christ will be free of condemnation. If we know someone is breaking God’s Law (not our personal “law”), there is nothing wrong with going to them and saying, “I see that this is happening in your life and I know God isn’t pleased.” In fact, we are supposed to rebuke and correct. There’s a big difference between being accountable with each other and criticizing each other. One is for the benefit of the person, while the other is to make ourselves feel good.

Judging in and of itself is not wrong. The issue here is what we use to judge. Are we using God’s Law or our church’s traditions? Are we concerned about obeying Jesus or getting others to agree with our opinions? Are we basing our judgments on what God sees in the heart, or what we see on the outside of people?

So what about tolerance?

There are too many nice Christians in the world. Christians who are tolerant, non-judgmental, all-inclusive and passive. We have not been called to be any of these things. We are told to speak the truth in love. We are to be accountable to each other.

There are many things in the world and our culture that the Church doesn’t agree with. Injustice happens. We cannot expect unbelievers to act the same way a believer would. We can’t impose our beliefs on someone who doesn’t have the same faith that we do. This means that we can’t simply go around protesting any and everything we disagree with. As Christians, we need to choose our battles and make sure that we are doing nothing out of conceit or personal opinion, but rather on the basis of God’s truth.

It is not a Christian’s job to create a Christian-friendly society. Jesus tells us time and time again that we will have trouble in the world. That we will be persecuted for Him. That the world will hate us because of Him. It’s not our job to get upset over every single thing. Yes, we should stand against injustice. We shouldn’t be okay with abortion or human trafficking or racism. But everything we do should be done in love.

Let’s stop being passive and start being brave. Let’s stop being tolerant and start being truthful. Let’s stop trying to please ourselves and start pleasing God. Let’s speak the Truth in love and be witnesses of God’s love to the world.

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Is It Wrong to Date or Marry Someone who Isn’t a Christian?

"Do not be unequally yoked"--what does that really mean? Is it actually wrong or even a sin to date or marry someone who isn't a Christian? The answer might not be what you think. Click here to read more!

Ah, youth group. I went to youth group all throughout high school, and it was pretty great. I looked forward to Tuesday nights, where I got to play cool games (i.e. playing football but actually just trying not to get killed by all the guys who took it way too seriously), eating yummy snacks (except for Fear Factor night…still trying to suppress that memory), and having great worship (always unforeseen; sloppy wet wasn’t even an option). Heck, we even had some great Bible studies.

At youth, things like character, dating and our relationships with God were all among the topics discussed. It’s not much of a surprise that when we were talking about dating, we were warned against dating a non-Christian—or being “unequally yoked”. As a matter of fact, I think most Christians will advise you not to date someone who isn’t a believer…myself included.

But what does the Bible say about dating/marrying a non-believer? Since the Bible doesn’t really discuss dating (it wasn’t really a thing back then) but it discusses marriage, I’ll look at this issue from a marriage perspective. This applies to dating as well, since dating is usually done with an intention of marriage.

When you hear “don’t marry someone who isn’t a Christian”, this verse is usually brought in for back-up:

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Cor. 6:14)

Although this verse seems to be condemning the practice of a believer marrying a non-believer, there is no mention of marriage in this whole chapter. This verse is usually used out of context. The heading of this section in my Bible says, “The Temple of the Living God”. Paul goes on to remind the Corinthians that God wants us to be holy and separate for Him. This verse could be interpreted as forbidding any type of close relationship with those outside the church. Why is it that so many people use it only in the context of marriage?

Well, because people take things out of context to prove their own point. (It happens. Context is important when understanding God’s Word.)

So: is marrying someone who isn’t a Christian a sin? What does the Bible say?

The Bible gives many different instructions about marriage, some of which are not negotiable. Divorce is a sin in God’s eyes (with the exception of some circumstances, such as abuse). 1 Corinthians 7:10 – 11 says this:

To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

That’s pretty clear. If you continue reading in 1 Cor. 7:12 – 16, Paul says that he is of the opinion that if a believer is married to an unbeliever, the unbeliever can make the choice to stay or be separated.

So what about a believer marrying an unbeliever? The answer is simply this: God does not say that we as Christians are required to marry believers. However, He does give us many other guidelines for marriage that we are to follow, whether or not we are married to a believer. A choice like who we marry can have a big effect on us from an eternal perspective.

The first thing God ever says about marriage is this:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Gen. 2:24)

Whoever you marry, you will become one flesh. You are no longer two, but one under God. That doesn’t change because you don’t marry someone who isn’t a Christian.

Paul also gives this instruction as he concludes his principles for marriage:

Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. (1 Cor. 7:17)

We are required to still follow Christ and fulfill our calling in him—no matter who we marry. Click To Tweet

We will not be justified based on who we marry, or anything we do in this life. We cannot do anything to earn God’s favour. When we stand before God on Judgment Day, He will not give us brownie points for marrying a Christian. That being said, we can’t go to God and say, “I know I didn’t live my life fully for You, but the person I married prevented me—it’s not my fault.” We are will be accountable for ourselves, no matter who we chose to spend our lives with.

Personally, I have chosen to marry a Christian someday. I have several reasons for choosing this, and none of them are because the Bible says to.

My relationship with Jesus is the most important relationship in my life.

Christ comes first—even though I’ll be the first to tell you that I fail at this daily. He is my One & Only, and my relationship with Him comes first. Since He is the most important thing in my life, I want someone who can share in that with me. I don’t want to marry someone who is going to distract me from my relationship with Christ, but encourage me in it. I want someone who won’t be jealous of my relationship with him and who won’t pull me away from my relationship with God.

Marriage is the closest relationship I will ever have with someone on Earth.

On this side of heaven, my marriage will be the closest relationship I have with another human being. That’s a lot to invest your life in. I want someone who has the same foundation as I do. On my own, I can be as strong as I want, and I can marry a really strong person. But if our strength comes from different places, how strong will we be as a couple?

I want to marry for reasons other than my happiness.

I’m not getting married just to be happy. I’ll marry someone I want to raise my kids. What if I get married and have kids and then I’m not around to raise them? I want to marry someone I can trust my kids’ spiritual education with. I might not always be around to bring them to Sunday school or youth group. Even if both parents are involved, will kids grow up following Christ if they don’t see both parents setting this example? Sadly, the answer is usually no.

I want my marriage to glorify God.

When I get married, I want my relationship to be a tool God can use to build His kingdom. That’s not to say that you can’t honor God if your spouse isn’t a Christian, but I want to be married to someone who can share in that mission with me. I want my marriage to point to the relationship Christ has with his Church. It won’t be able to do that if my future spouse and I aren’t on the same page spiritually.

All this being said, I don’t think it’s a wise idea to marry someone who isn’t a Christian. Having the same morals or values as you isn’t enough. Is that person actively pursuing God, with or without you?

When your eyes are set on Christ and your heart is in the right place, you won’t even want to look at anyone who isn’t also focused on him.

Although God doesn’t demand that we marry a Christian, I do firmly believe that it is the best thing to marry someone who can share in the grace and love and mission of Christ and his Church. When marriage is focused on Christ, it is beautiful. It points back to God and His love for us. There are so many blessings available for us when we marry someone who loves Christ and is dedicated to following him.

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When Honesty isn’t the Best Policy

As Christians, we know that honesty is important. But is there such a thing as being too honest? Click here to read more!

Once at youth group, our youth pastor showed us a video of a young man standing in the streets of a large city, talking into a megaphone. He was calling the world out on their sins and threatening fire and brimstone to those who did not repent. There was a crowd around him, listening to what he had to say. Some were laughing at him, others were agreeing with him. But then one woman stepped out of the crowd and spoke to him with tears streaming down her face.

“I’m listening to what you’re saying, and it’s breaking my heart,” she tells him. She professes to be a follower of Christ, then shares that she is where she is because someone took the time to get to know her and love her, not because someone told her everything she was doing wrong.

The street minister explained that without knowledge of sin, there cannot be repentance, and that’s why he was doing what he was doing. At the end of the video, our youth pastor asked who we thought was right. And I really wasn’t sure.

On the one hand, Jesus didn’t sugar-coat sin. He called it what it was and demanded full repentance. We need to fully repent before we can accept healing from God and grow in our walk with him. But at the same time, Jesus did not shame everyone who came to him. He formed relationships and loved people right where they were at. He accepted a broken prostitute’s worship and assured a repentant thief of his salvation. So what’s the balance?

We need to stand up for our faith and say what we believe. But how are you doing that? Are you bringing up debates or disagreements with the hopes of bringing people onto your side? I have seen people start debates or arguments with non-believers to try to “witness” to them. But how many people do you know who have actually become a follower of Jesus Christ because they lost a debate?

Hold on. Jesus argued with the Pharisees and told them off and was honest with them! He said all kinds of things about their self-righteous ways.

I agree. Jesus did tell people off. There were many times when he was brutally honest with people who couldn’t get beyond themselves—people who were more concerned with their perfect reputation than the physical and spiritual welfare of others. Jesus had strong words for those who showed no love to those around them because of their own pride.

But to the broken-hearted, Jesus had a very different response. He healed them. He saw to their needs. He loved them. Ultimately, he died for everyone. He sacrificed for others. He did not pull aside the despondent and start a debate on the Law. He responded to debates brought to him with ultimate wisdom, but he also did not waste words with those who refused to listen.

As Christians and representatives of Christ, we are called to show love first. Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is first to love the Lord our God and then to love our neighbours. If someone wants to start a debate with you or ask you a theological question, by all means, engage them in discussion. But when a debate starts to go in circles or is not getting anywhere, you may be wasting your words.

Paul encourages Timothy with the following words:

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. (2 Timothy 2:23 – 25)

We are also called to show love to others. Human beings are relational. We all need relationships and love and belonging. It’s how we were created. We can bridge the gap by extending friendship and giving of ourselves for the good of others. Ultimately, it was not Jesus’ wise words that saved the world, but his unconditional love and sacrifice by giving up his own life.

When talking to others about your faith, remember these words of Paul to the Ephesians:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

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Pointing to God in Both Success and Failure

You know it's important to give God the glory when you succeed. But what about when you fail? How do you point to God in your failure? Click here to find out!

Have you ever been told, “You did such a great job! You should be proud”?

I’m sure you have, for one thing or another. Most of us have had at least one experience—big or small—in which we were successful at something. Maybe it was a coloring contest when you were nine. Maybe your high school graduation or getting your first real job. Most of us have had that experience of doing well at something and being proud of it. I know I have (although none of those experiences include athletics).

We live in a world where it is so easy to get an artificial self-esteem boost. We post our success stories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram then watch and wait to see how many likes we get in the first hour. When our expectations are blown away, we feel validated. When our expectations are disappointed, so are we. We carefully critique the picture or post and if we think it’s not good enough, we quietly delete it.

But when we succeed, wow! We get recognition, congratulations and good wishes. We feel so proud. People approve of me, we think. I’m accepted. Loved. Impressive. Eventually, we identify ourselves with that success. When we think of who we are as a person, we add that to our list of qualifications of doing life.

The problem with success such as I’ve described is that it doesn’t really work the way we think it will. Success is great. Doing a good job is something to be happy about. We shouldn’t strive for anything less. There are several places in Scripture where we are told that we should work hard and not be lazy. We should strive for the best. But we are also told to work for the Lord and not for man. I believe that goes deeper than “work as if you were working for Jesus and not your boss”. I think it includes not seeking man’s approval of that work, but God’s.

I think God knew what He was doing when He said that we need to give Him glory for everything we do. When we start to take credit for our successes, we start to find our identity in those successes. We know who we are because of those successes.

However, finding pride in the good we do is a double-edged sword. When we identify ourselves by our successes, what happens when we fail? We start to define ourselves by our failures too. But since we aren’t perfect and never will be, we will always experience failure from time to time; and our successes won’t always outweigh our failures. So what happens? We get caught in a downward spiral of failure, defeat and guilt.

When we allow our successes to define us, our failures will too. Click To Tweet

But God made us for so much more than that. When we were told to give glory to Him, it wasn’t just for His benefit. He loves us too much for that. It was for His glory, but also for our good. He knows we aren’t perfect. When we give God our successes, we give Him ourselves. When our successes don’t identify us, neither do our failures.

Your failures don’t define you. Neither do your successes. You are not a high-paying job or an employment insurance cheque. You are not a high GPA or a failed course. God and His love alone define you. You are a child of God.

The Son of God died for your sins, your imperfections, your failures. Then He rose, triumphant, over those sins. He defeated them. He gives you strength for your successes and grace in your failures. He is on your side and will never leave you. When you fail, He stays the same.

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