A Sentence Made of Fabric
Written by Ben Zornes on July 17, 2017
When the Bloggers Go Forth to Battle
As the summer months are upon us the Christian blogosphere has taken upon itself the task of rallying to their respective “modesty” camps. Some advocate for liberty of conscience for women to dress as they please, chiding anyone who would seek to cover up skin with either general guidelines or quite strict rules. The other camp are purveyors of those tacky “Modest is hottest” memes. We live in a perilous time of attack upon the objective meaning of language and symbol. In the area of clothing, Christians are in danger of going along with the mindset that believes in the “relativity of truth” and doing so in the name of Christian liberty.
Do not forget that God made this world meaningful. Cloudy, grey skies mean sadness, home-baked cookies mean thoughtfulness, a scowl and folded arms means anger, nakedness means shamefulness. If that last one caused your neck artery to bulge out, simmer down, and I’ll circle back to what I mean by that. Hang on, breathe into a paper bag, and keep reading. You cannot escape the reality of a meaning-filled world; and therefore everything is a means of communicating meaning. Nakedness, then, is meaningful, so we must ask, “What does God intend nakedness to mean?”
What you put on this morning is a sentence made of fabric. Your clothes tell your employer what you think of the work environment and how seriously you take your job. They tell your neighbors that you’re going out for a jog. They tell the barista that you are a doctor, policemen, etc. They tell every guy along the street you want to turn his head. This should cause us to ask, “What do I want to say?”
Of course this point holds true for both men and women. But when it comes to the modesty discussion many complain that an undue weight often falls on women, and more needs to be done to rebuke and hold accountable all the hot-n-bothered guys who have just one thing on their brain cell. In affirming that a woman is responsible for what her apparel says, we are not ignoring that men are most certainly responsible for their thoughts. But remember, men and women are different, and so are our temptations. This obvious truth is surprisingly controversial!
For instance, the girl at the beach in a barely-there, push-up bikini is not only tempting the men around her; she herself is being tempted. She is being tempted to believe that she will find security by being an object of desire. She wants the security of a marriage covenant and the edenic, shameless nakedness of the marriage bed. All she is getting is the leach-like cruelty of lust, draining her of all that she was made to be. She was made to be glorious: a fruitful vine at her husband’s table, nurturing her offspring, being the glory and delight of her husband.
Christian men must remember that even if the whole beach is nothing but string bikinis, the sin lies in his heart not in their bodies. He must resist the sin of lust no matter what she is wearing. Discussions on modesty often center on men’s lust in response to women’s clothing. What I think is often left out is addressing women’s lusts. The lust to be secure, protected, desired, adored. There is a right way for her to satisfy these desires, and there is a sinful way.
The marriage bed is intended to be the glorious taste of nakedness without shame. Any attempt to disrobe outside of that context will end in shame. Christian women who, in the name of their Christian liberty, want to publicly adorn the glory of their body with minimal fabric must ask, “If we took away one square inch of fabric at a time, at what point would you say it is inappropriate?” A Christian woman has the great privilege of displaying the stunning glory of her every charm in the theatre of her marriage bed for the audience of her husband. It is there that she is to be adored. It is no accident that the fruit of his adoration of her is children! Over a few generations her glories will have become a small town. Her desire for her beauty to be adored is intended to be fruit-bearing.
I’ve heard some progressives retort, “Well, I see you’re not wearing a helmet, does that mean I can smash your skull with a hammer?” They claim to want sexual freedom, yet they reject a world in which sexuality actually has meaning and purpose. Their cries against slut-shaming only work if there is such a thing as a slut. We all know what she looks like, but no one is allowed to admonish Christian women to not be like her. Eve was the jewel in the crown of creation. She was made to adorn it all with her glory and beauty and charm. She was naked and unashamed.
She was made to receive and glorify what her husband gave. Now because of her envy for adoration she has been twisted into something to be devoured. Man was made to give. Lust has twisted him into something that must have. Sin has made it so that women are now the fuel for the lusts of godless men, rather than queens who fill the earth with their beauty and offspring. Sin has made it so that men are now black holes of unrestrained desire, rather than the kings who create and tend this world in submission to their Creator. Men have become destroyers, women that which they destroy. Men have become devourers of that which they were to make fertile.
Clothing reminds us that we broke God’s law in Eden. But it also comes with the promise of salvation through the robe of Christ’s righteousness. A Christian woman should not have a Christ-less view of clothing. Clothing and disrobing ourselves are often thoughtless actions. But as Christians we are called to be wise and shrewd and thoughtful in regards to all of our choices.
A Christian woman should remember, as she selects her apparel, that she is a queen. While immodesty promises a girl attention, it comes at the cost of her humanity. But when a woman embraces the dignity that comes with her calling to be a queen of nations, what comes with it is adoration from her husband and awed admiration from the public. When a woman lusts, it bears the fruit of skimpy clothing precisely because she is trading in her glory and calling to obtain the cheap exhilaration of being noticed and craved. She was intended to be a queen of creation, lust turns her into a whore to be consumed.
Lust is not isolated to men. Our concern for Christian women, when it comes to modesty in life and therefore dress, is that they would embrace a queenly mantle of glory, rather than taking the bait of quick attention. When a Christian woman is obedient to God in following His calling for her life, behavior manner and adornment, healthy admiration and adoration accompany. When she takes the shortcut of lust, she gets the attention and none of the glory.
It is only through the righteousness of Christ that our shame and nakedness may be covered. This is only one more area in which the Gospel gets into every detail of our existence and transforms. It takes a woman from shame to glory, and then from glory to glory. She was made to be a queen, and that is something which only the Gospel can accomplish.