Yesterday we looked at attributes of clothing for the Christian woman. But while we pursue clothing that is modest, a modest spirit exhibits grace to others regardless of how modest we think they are. Modesty leaves no room for pride, hypocrisy, or judgmentalism. Instead, where it sees a problem, modesty expresses love for God and concern for His glory; a tenderness and care for the souls of others; and a humility in dealing with an issue. Modesty is very much connected with humility, evidenced in our words and actions.
If you know a believer that is wearing immodest clothing, recognize that it might be because of a difference in opinion. Out of love for a sister in Christ and concern for her witness, go to her and gently, kindly talk about these things. There are tonnes of resources out there to help you do this, most of them free of cost online.
Sometimes another Christian woman is wearing something immodest as result of poor teaching. A believer may be immodest out of ignorance – they are simply not aware of it. I know someone who gained some weight, making all of her clothes tight. She didn’t realize she looked vacuum packed, and just needed someone to gently point it out, and she went shopping.
I don’t know any believer who would dress in a deliberately immodest way. It is almost always a result of poor teaching or spiritual immaturity. And where there is disagreement within the bounds of Christian freedom, we must be gracious there, too, and let the matter rest.
Now, if you know an unbeliever that is immodest, recognize that is in perfect accordance with her worldview. The Lord has to change her heart before she will willingly change her shirt. Her immodest clothing is a sign that she needs a Saviour. Another shirt, while it might be necessary, is a band-Aid solution. If other clothes have to happen prior to her conversion, minimize the issue and focus on her soul. Giving her a list of what not to wear simply skirts the main issue and presents a side of Christianity that seems legalistic to an unbeliever.
Modesty is not a new issue, and church history has so much thoughtful commentary on it. More than a century ago, John Angell James wrote a piece on modesty that applies to women in the church today, since our hearts are the same as believers then, and because as women, we’re still thinking long and hard about what we wear.
Mr. James describes modesty as “a distinction between those who profess godliness…and those who make no such profession… I am anxious to see [Christian women] displaying a seriousness and spirituality, a dignity and sobriety of mind…becoming of their high and holy profession…
Let it be remembered, that not only the ornament, but the person which it adorns, is corruptible. Accidents may distort the finest form, diseases fade the loveliest colouring, time disfigure the smoothest surface, and death, the spoiler of beauty, work a change so awful and appalling, as to turn away the most impassioned admirers with disgust. How soon will every other dress be replaced by the shroud, and every other decoration be stripped off to make way for the flowers that are strewn in the coffin…But the graces of the heart, and the beauties of the character, are imperishable; such let a wife be continually seeking to put on; “for she that has a wise husband must entice him to an eternal dearness, by the veil of modesty, and the robes of chastity, the ornaments of meekness and the jewels of faith and charity.’”
What kind of clothing are we seeking, and why? How can your clothing more accurately express the spiritual realities of salvation in your life? Do we shop with the white robes of righteousness in mind? Our clothes will tell others something about the gospel, and so will our responses to their clothing. We’re all, to some extent, wearing our theology. And so we all need to make sure we are thinking biblically when we get dressed every single morning, and love others with the gospel.