I'm going to preface this with a disclaimer for anyone who may be reading this without "knowing" who I am. I have six daughters--five of them are under the age of 9, the other is a married adult. I've also got an adult son, a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, and a husband. To be bluntly honest, I don't think modesty is an issue more important to any one of us than another. My daughters and daughter-in-law can be just as guilty of being immodest as my son, son-in-law, or husband can. And every single one of us can have our consciences seared to the point that we just don't even think about the temptation that is being thrown at us every day as anything less than what it is--a blatant, "I don't care" attitude regarding the purity of the mind and body.
I was raised in south Florida, within a 15-minute drive (through horrendous traffic ... it was probably less than ten miles "as the crow flies") of the beach. I have LIVED the tropical, carefree, anything-goes bikini-and-Speedo lifestyle. I will say this much--I have only owned one bikini in my entire lifetime. I *think* I was about 8 years old, at the oldest. My bikini days ended one fateful day while playfully jumping headfirst into a crashing wave and popping up to realize that my top was nowhere to be found. I am only thankful that it happened when my body so closely resembled that of my best friend's younger brother. And I'm glad I had enough training in modesty to be completely humiliated at such a young age. My own 8-year-old just yesterday asked me why Target has moved the underwear section of their women's clothing (speaking of swimwear) to the front of the store. I replied to her that it probably did need to be closer to the underwear section, since it probably covered less than most bras and panties worn UNDER clothing. I'm at least thankful that my girls have that amount of innocence left that hasn't been trampled by our near-nude culture.
HOWEVER ... back on track ... these five girls still living in my house are already being "indoctrinated" by our anything-goes culture that has somehow infiltrated the church to an alarming degree. Folks, I'm not going to say we need to take on the state of un-dress for the rest of the world. That is an insurmountable task, especially considering how strongly our society feels about "freedom of expression" with regard to fashion. What I *am* challenging is how flippantly we Christians are approaching this problem. How many times lately have you had to avert your eyes (or did you??) from the photograph of a young CHRISTIAN girl in a bikini posted on Facebook? Or her mother??? How often have we looked the other way when CHRISTIANS show up to a worship service or Bible study dressed in ways that reveal not just "too much", but also conflicting loyalties of the heart? Have you ever wondered if the "rich young rulers" of today would be challenged by Jesus to give up their wardrobe?
"Don't judge me" is one of those catch-phrases that gets thrown around more than ketchup packets in a food court, and it has swiftly become the force field that people use to protect themselves against being confronted about behavior that is questionable. But, brothers and sisters in Christ, the "judgement" of the Bible is not condemnation--it is a discerning spirit that should be used with LOVE to draw each other closer to Christ and further away from the values and pleasures and motives of this world! Christians should reflect CHRIST, not anything else. In fact, (and I KNOW I'm going to receive some flames for this one) the Bible clearly states that a follower of Christ is to die to self. DIE to self. That, um, kind of removes the "self-expression" argument from the table, doesn't it? When people look at us, what should they see? Should they see someone who is "hot" or "drop-dead gorgeous", or (this phrase absolutely floors me) "yummy"? Should they see our ink-art that tells the world "who we are" and what we value? Or should our outward appearance lead them straight to the message of Christ by seeing that what is lovely and beautiful about us is in our hearts?
I'm going to throw an idea out there that has certainly been said before, but it has become lost in the current modesty debate. MODESTY is not about how much skin you are or aren't showing. MODESTY is about what people see when they look at you. And yes, that encompasses every little part of your outward appearance. Your smile, your eyes, your entire countenance. But see ... the "rest" of the modesty debate is that how we (and I'm speaking of Christians here ... the unsaved are lost and we have bigger fish to fry with regard to their salvation) dress and carry ourselves when we are in a public setting. What is it we are drawing attention to? Are we actually poisoning the hearts of the unsaved? Are we providing temptation for other Christians to sin? This is seriously NO LIGHT MATTER.
Ironically, physical modesty is something the Arab world has handled a lot better than we do. They realize, as a culture, that modesty is not just "covering up", but also a respect issue. Take a look at this sign, which is posted in a popular Dubai shopping mall, in the United Arab Emirates:
this article and notice how the biggest problem they have is with foreigners who cannot RESPECT the culture and values of the country that they are visiting. It's people who value their own self-expression and "comfort" (but really, no one will ever convince me that short-shorts are comfortable) over the principles of others. "ME FIRST" is not dying to self. Christians, is that an attitude you want to have ruling your heart?