I'm no fashionista, believe me! I could care less if my clothes have a designer label on them or if they are from Wal-mart. I rarely ever pay more than $5 for a tee-shirt. I almost never buy clothes unless they are on sale. In our materialistic culture, clothing seems to occupy a lot of attention. Or maybe more like demands attention. So, here's the question: Does God care what the Christian wears, or is it just one of those side issues? You know, the proverbial "grey area." Maybe what we wear isn't even on God's radar. After all, He's concerned about our heart right? What does that have to do with clothes? Heart = inside; clothes = outside. There's not much of a relation... or is there?
Lest you automatically assume I'm going down the pants-on-women-is-sin road, I would ask you to keep reading. It's true. Independent Baptists talk a lot about dress standards. Believe me, I've heard the sermons, gotten the lectures, read the books, studied the Scripture passages, and was told to change my clothes on more than one occasion while in Bible college. I know about the principle of modesty. I've come to the conclusion that what we wear is really about one thing. Our heart!
Yup, you read it correctly. How we dress is a total reflection of whether our heart is submitted to God or fixed on our own desires. Now before you go jumping to a whole bunch of conclusions AGAIN... I did NOT say that a woman who wears skirts has her heart right with God, and a woman who wears pants doesn't! I just want to make that clear! I never said that!
Okay... now that we've cleared up that point, lets keep going. I'm simply going to use this post to explain some of my experiences with how I dress. Hopefully it will be an encouragement to others, and maybe it'll help you to see something from the Scripture that you never noticed before. That would be great :). Maybe it will inspire you to make some changes in how you dress, and maybe it won't. If you want to study the biblical reasons for modesty and for women wearing skirts, there are many resources and blogs online to help you if you do a google search.
I did not grow up in a family where the females wore dresses and skirts all the time. I was introduced to that concept when I went to Bible college. Girls had to wear knee length or longer dresses and skirts at all times. Of course our shirts and tops were to be modest too. Nothing low cut, clingy, tight, sleeveless or in any other way revealing. This was all new to me. I pretty much grew up wearing whatever I wanted. I didn't dress trashy at all. I was more like nerdy :). I liked Northern Reflections. What teenager likes that store???? Yeah, I had some fashion issues... haha. The whole skirt rule wasn't a big deal for me. I found out after a while that it WAS a big deal for some of the other girls. They LONGED to be able to wear pants. I had worn pants my whole life, and believe me, there's nothing that special about wearing pants. I found the attitude of these girls quite humourous.
I learned at Bible college that modesty is important, and I learned that God does care how His children dress. There are so many biblical principles that apply to what we wear. Modesty is one, but there's also the principle of separation from the world (II Cor. 6:17), honouring the Lord with our bodies (Rom. 12:1), and being holy (I Pet. 1:16). We must remember that we are ambassadors of Christ (II Cor. 5:20) and our conversation (or lifestyle) is not of this world (Phil 3:20). That's a lot of reasons to really take a step back and look at what we wear.
I like to think of myself dressing for the Lord. Sometimes I ask myself, if Jesus were to come back right now, would I be ashamed of what I am wearing if He saw me? What do my clothes say about my Saviour? Do they say He's a "cool dude" or that He "rocks"? Do they say He likes women who dress with necklines that tease and form fitting outfits that leave little to the imagination? I'm embarrassed to even write that, but sadly I've seen Christian girls who's clothes scream those kind of things. My Saviour is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He has redeemed me and bought me at a great cost; His very life! How should I dress for my King? See, it's really not about skirts or pants. It's not about tight or loose. It's not about skimpy or frumpy. It's about how much in my heart I want to honour the Lord. Am I willing to honour Him by dressing in a way that would please Him?
Clothing serves specific purposes. It is an identifier. Many professions require uniforms for this very reason. Think about doctors, policeman, nurses, mechanics, and the military. Many other professions have a dress code. Have you ever noticed how lawyers dress? I'm sure they wouldn't head into a court room in ripped jeans, a stained tee shirt, and flip-flops. I did a promotion for my business in the mall several months ago, and in my contract there was a dress code: business casual, no jeans. I've sung in secular choirs that had a stricter dress code for performance than my choir in Bible college did! If the world takes clothing so seriously, maybe we Christians should give our closets another look. Does God not deserve just as much respect as our boss?!
Clothing can also provide protection. I wouldn't head outside in the winter where I live without my coat, hat, mitts, boots, and scarf. My Dad has special pants he wears when he's using his chainsaw, so if the blade slips he hopefully won't cut his leg off. Construction crews often wear brightly coloured shirts so they are visible. How does what Christians wear protect them? As women we can protect ourselves by covering up. We all know men are visual. Now don't start giving excuses that that is their fault and not yours. A guy might look at me and think a dirty thought whether I'm covered from head to toe or not. But, at least if I'm covered my mind can be at ease that I'm not the instigator of that thought!
I'm not an advocate extremes when it comes to clothes. Some groups of women dress modestly, but they are also ridiculous. We don't need to look like we're from the 18th century in order to be modest. Personally, I don't think being so extreme on the modesty side brings honour to Christ anymore than wearing something skimpy does. Although, if you're going to be extreme I guess I would prefer the modest one over the skimpy one!
Maybe it's not even about whether your clothes are modest or not. There's a far reaching biblical principle called the principle of a stumbling block. The Bible commands us not to do anything that would cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble in their faith. Our clothes can definitely be a stumbling block to a fellow Christian, but we may never know it. All the more reason to exercise caution. I've justified wearing things I've known I shouldn't because the mature Christian women in the church were wearing similar things. What kind of example are we giving young girls and boys by what we wear around them?
It's not just about how we dress at church either. To dress modestly on Sunday and then take off to the beach on Monday in a bikini is the height of hypocrisy. One thing I've noticed is that the way I dress often brings questions from people around me. I've had MANY of my students ask if I ever wear pants. I get to answer that by saying, No. The next question is invariably, why? I can then usually slip in something about God or the Bible or my faith when answering. Wearing skirts all the time can be a great witnessing tool. People do notice! I think that's so neat :).
Clothing can really be a sensitive issue. I'm not so sure why? We have no problem giving up all kinds of evil for Christ, yet when it comes to what we wear, we want to hang on to the world. It's hard to give up a favourite sweater or pair of jeans. I know because I've had to do it, but the blessing that comes from being obedient is worth it! I really think it's time we started dressing for Him, and not for ourselves. He is worthy of our best.