Helping an Immodest Sister in Christ

Posted By on April 19, 2010

"Women Walking on the Beach" Print

I’d like to ask you for advice on how to answer a modesty issue that is occurring at our church. There is a single young woman who continually chooses to attend church in very risque outfits. This appears to be on purpose. She loves to flaunt herself in addition. Her parents and other siblings attend our church along with her. Week after week goes by and it seems like no one is speaking out against this. It is almost like we’re all pretending to ignore it and are hoping it will end on its own. My family and I can hardly ignore this, and her choice of dress is a complete distraction to us, not to mention we continue to grow angry and concerned about how this could be affecting the men and boys of our church (as well as other young girls). What would you do -who would you approach first? Also -it’s not like our pastors don’t “see” this too. Could they be ignoring it as well? Sincerely, “Sad anp; Frustrated”

She wore what most would consider to be immodest clothing -skin tight jeans, plunging necklines, short skirts–and carried herself with marked insecurity, tugging at her clothes, speaking hesitantly, glancing anxiously from face-to-face as we talked to her. When she walked into our church -when she saw the way the other young ladies dressed–I could almost read the fear in her eyes: “They’re going to look down on me. They’re going to think they’re better than me!”

I wanted to set her heart at ease, but I wondered if anyone did think they were better than our visitor? If anyone looked at her clothes and assumed that she wasn’t passionate about the things of God–that she wouldn’t fit in to conversations about his Word -that because of the way she dressed in contrast with lower hemlines and higher necklines, she was a “certain kind” of person. Perhaps they’d never know that she was sweet and kind, quiet and unassuming, eager to learn about God’s Word. Perhaps they’d only ever see her as a plunging neckline.

Well, they didn’t. They were as kind and sweet to her as any girls could be. And as we got to know our new friend, she began to change. She grew more confident, started wearing a few tank tops under those low-cut shirts, and her hems dropped. Some of this was the result of sweet, frank conversations with women who had taken the time to get to know her and befriend her -others were simply the result of growth in the Lord. Understanding that her body was a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), that the Lord meant for certain aspects of it only to be shared with her husband, that dressing modestly was something we were commanded to do in order to honor the Lord made her a new person. To my knowledge, no one scolded or berated her. I never heard anyone talking about her behind her back. And the young men never spoke to her or of her with bitterness, but smiled at her every Sunday she walked into church and treated her the same way they treated the rest of us.

Immodest dress is a hindrance. When a girl bares it all, it can be difficult for us to see past the skin and realize that the young woman is more than what she has on. In fact, one of the reasons modesty is so important is because immodesty is such an incredible distraction–and not just for young men! Although one of the biggest sticking points for discussions surrounding modesty is an incredible burden that’s been placed on Christian womens’ shoulders not to cause their brothers to stumble, the truth is, I’ve noticed that immodesty affects women just as much -if not more so -than men.

Women often have a problem bristling in distaste at an immodestly dressed woman, assuming that she is lying in wait to ensnare a man, that she is selfishly and knowingly selecting clothes to cause others to stumble, and that she enjoys flaunting herself. And, in this spirit, women–often hiding under the guise of trying to zealously guarding the purity of their brothers in Christ (who I’ve found to have a lot more fortitude in this matter than we give them credit for)–take this modesty issue to such great lengths that they are willing to tar and feather anyone who they see who doesn’t meet their standard, with a view that the offending party is fully aware of her sadistic and sensual hold on well-meaning Christian men.

In reality, however, I have found that this is usually not the case. Young women dress immodestly because they are blindly following fashion trends. They dress immodestly because they are buying what they see off the rack. They dress immodestly because no one has ever taught them to do otherwise. They are not guiltless because of their ignorance (Romans 1:18-20), but for some of them, the starting point for change is going to be a woman who is willing to reach out to them and to guide them aright.

And some of us miss the opportunity to teach and encourage because we’re so busy fastening every single buttonhole to the glory of God (1 Timothy 2:9) that we miss giving him glory by loving our sisters in Christ (1 Corinthians 13). Instead of loving them enough to use Titus 2 as a springboard to minister to them, we snicker about them behind their backs, “Can you believe what she’s wearing today?” Instead of loving them enough to use Matthew 18 as a springboard to confront them about a blind spot they might have, we assume the worst of them and gripe about their malicious intent to rouse lust in the hearts of all mankind. Instead of developing a godly relationship with them, we avoid them like the plague, thinking they ought to know better… but never taking the time to teach them.

What a shame! Modesty–something we do to give glory to the Lord, and, by extension, safeguard ourselves and our brothers in Christ–often becomes something we use to give glory to ourselves and to devalue our Christian sisters.

It may be that our sisters are still growing in the Lord, mortifying the sin in their lives, coming to a greater and greater understanding of God’s Word. It may be that they are dressing in an attention-seeking way, and they need to be reminded that their worth should come from the Lord, not how alluring they can be. It may be that if we take the time to know our sisters in Christ who are struggling in this area that we will better be able to serve them, leading them lovingly back to God’s Word.

As far as the answer to “Sad and Frustrated” goes, my advice would be to repent of any feelings of animosity or bitterness towards the immodest sister in Christ, and to make a conscious effort to bless her with encouraging words. Have her family for dinner! Invite her and her mother for coffee with you and your mom. Spend some one-on-one time with her at church to get to know her better. Broach subjects like biblical femininity, biblical womanhood, and, yes, modesty. Be frank and loving (Ephesians 4:15).

“So and so, you are such a beautiful young woman, and I have loved to see how much you’re growing in grace! Here are some things that I appreciate about you… But I’ve been thinking–when you wear____, it distracts attention from what a beautiful person you really are. God’s Word tells us in 1 Peter 3:1-6 that outward adornment isn’t pleasing in God’s sight unless it reflects the imperishable beauty within…”.

This sort of conversation isn’t going to be helpful to our hearer unless we’ve taken the time to demonstrate that our words come from a genuine love for the Lord and a genuine concern for our sister, and not from a prideful heart. Even then, it might be hard for our sister in Christ to hear. But as we continue to love on her, we might just be surprised at the outcome.

Now, lest my approach seem to undermine the expediency of the modesty problem, consider a few things: first, that if we truly felt the problem expedient, we would spend less time becoming frustrated with the immodest dresser, whispering about her behind her back, or emailing our favorite bloggers about the problem and run to her immediately for the love of our wandering-eyed men. In truth, however, we watch as the problem persists, never taking steps to right it. Secondly, there may be an older woman in the church (Titus 2:3-5) or a peer of the young woman’s father who is able to speak to the young lady as soon as possible -this post is directed mainly at the young woman’s peers, who are less apt to feel they have the authority to approach the situation. Also, I have learned that the men in my life are able to show grace to a fledgling or floundering sister in Christ in the meantime, realizing that they are responsible for guarding their eyes, even when a sister in the Lord catches them off-guard (Matthew 5:28), although Proverbs 7 shows us that a wily sister is not guiltless in seeking to ensnare a man. Finally, showing genuine love to a sister before confronting her can take five minutes or five weeks -it’s all in your attitude when approaching her.

If the young woman is rebellious and persists in dressing inappropriately, ask your parents what they think the next step should be. Perhaps your dad can speak to her dad, your mom to her mother, or they feel this is an issue that does need to be taken to the elders. But, whatever it is, continue to treat her with a kind, gentle, 1 Corinthians 13 affection… and I believe you’re on the right track!

Also, when you recite 1 Peter 3:1-6 to her, remember that your outward adornment should be a reflection of the imperishable beauty within as well. Are you walking in love, as the Lord has commanded you? Does that beautiful modest dress you’re wearing match an equally beautiful, humble heart? I surely hope it does!

I hope this helps! May the Lord bless you as you humbly strive to obey his commands and to give grace and encouragement to your brothers and sisters in Christ who are doing the same.

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About The Author

Jasmine is the oldest of Voddie and Bridget Baucham's seven children. She is a homeschool graduate who enjoys studying and writing about areas as varied as theology, philosophy, political science, art, film and culture. She is also an aspiring author who currently lives at home where she continues to assist her father in his research, is completing a degree in English literature, has written a book called, Joyfully at Home based on her old blog by the same title and is blessed to assist her mother with the care of her younger siblings. You can now find her rambling occasionally at All She Has to Say

Comments

11 Responses to “Helping an Immodest Sister in Christ”

  1. Thank you SO much for this…I am in tears :) Having once been that ignorant but searching girl, I am so thankful that the people of my church took the time to see past my outward appearance and into my heart. It took a little time, but the love of my Christian brothers and sisters somehow turned me around to being open to understanding God’s desire for modesty and femininity in my life.

    You said:

    “Also, when you recite 1 Peter 3:1-6 to her, remember that your outward adornment should be a reflection of the imperishable beauty within as well. Are you walking in love, as the Lord has commanded you? Does that beautiful modest dress you’re wearing match an equally beautiful, humble heart? I surely hope it does!”

    We need to be aware that there are those who have a discernment for the “real” attitudes of people. It is often very obvious when someone’s outward apperance does not match their heart and that thinking goes both ways. We can absolutely ruin our witness in a matter of minutes if our outward appearance is as it “should” be but our heart is radiating smugness, arrogance or rejection.

  2. Kathy P says:

    Yes! I think that you and your readers would also like the following blog: What Women Never Hear (http://wwnh.wordpress.com), which is written by an older gentleman distressed by what he sees in the modern generation. One of the topics he frequently discusses is women’s dress and particularly modesty. It’s not in a preachy sort of way, but rather shows women “what women never hear,” which is what guys think when they see women in immodest clothing, vs. what they think and how they act when women dress modestly.

  3. Rebecca says:

    Wonderfully thought out!

    Patient kindness is not an endorsement of (or slippery slope toward) relativism.

  4. Reading this, Jasmine, has been… difficult… for two reasons. One is that I used to be “that girl,” and flaunted myself knowingly yet insecurely for quite a while in my later years of teenagerhood. I knew exactly what I was doing, and I knew exactly what I should do instead, but my heart yearned for positive affirmation from men instead of placing my heart in the hands of the Lord, and I sought whatever attention I could get from them to fill this gap. My then-fiance (now husband) helped to shepherd me in this area as I came out of the teen years, but it wasn’t until we’d grown in marriage for over a year that I was truly convicted about my manner of dress and took the necessary steps to change my wardrobe.

    The second reason is that now that I *have* been convicted towards modest dress, I catch myself wondering why everyone else hasn’t been too! I’m guilty of judging others’ behavior based on my own motives when I was dressing in the same manner. I am certainly still learning to “take every thought captive” and to see through the eyes of Christ, to know when it is the time for love and when it is the time for admonition. Your post is another step in this learning process, and I thank you for taking the time to write it.

  5. Although how we dress is an important part of our Christian walk, how we treat our sisters in Him is an even more important part…. ever so much more important. Lord, help us to fret as much about the state of our sisters’ heart as we do about her hemline.

    What a fresh perspective on this subject! Thank you so much for sharing, Jasmine dear♥

  6. Charisbella says:

    I also was that immodest girl. I truly did not know! It seems incredible to me now that I was ignorant about something so seemingly obvious!

    A woman from church “loved” me enough to tell me in a letter. However, the letter was very harsh and judgemental. She assumed I knew what I was doing. I guess it seemed too obvious to her, too, and she could not conceive of anyone dressing that way in ingnorance.

    I was so very hurt; I cried for days. I was horrified, because I saw myself through her eyes, and her eyes were very condemning.

    I am grateful to the letter writer, though. It did help me to change. I changed radically! And immediately! And it also taught me to not judge the heart and motives of anyone I see dressing immodestly. Immodesty should be addressed, but lovingly and gently.

  7. Renee Stam says:

    Thanks you so much to have taken the time to write this beautiful post! Yes immodesty is distracting for both men and women!

    I have to admit when a girl or women comes and talk to me dressed in a very low neckline the only thing that comes to my mind is “look at her face, look at her face” Why I don’t know, I guess I feel more embarrass but seeing so much sink, that I don’t want to make her feel uncomfortable but at the same time I’m thinking how to men manage to keep their focus on her face when I a women feel overwhelm by the cleavage!!!

    It’s a delicate situation, when was are called to admonish one another.

  8. AmBraCol says:

    Greetings from Colombia. I found your blog via a friend’s post on Facebook. It is refreshing to find this type of mindset on the ‘net. :)

    Regarding the subject at hand, the matter of immodest dress in church, I’ll give you my perspective from a man and a pastor’s point of view.

    Occasionally we will have a young (and sometimes NOT so young) woman join us in our weekly gathering of the saints. (What a lot of folks refer to as ‘going to church’) If the young woman was not raised in a godly home it is very probable that she will not be wearing clothing designed for modesty but rather that which fashion dictates is the “in” thing to wear. And here in Latin America that tends to be a lot more revealing than what is common in other parts of the world. I’m amused at what some folks refer to as “plunging necklines” when they’ve never seen one that dives nearly to the belly button. But I digress.

    If that young woman is received with disdain or scorn – she’s never coming back. If she is received with love and acceptance then there is a good chance that she will learn to respect herself and others and to demonstrate this change in her way of dressing.

    Too many people believe that change is effected from the outside in. They want that young girl to change her way of dressing and THEN they’ll address the issue (MAYBE) about her way of thinking. This is backwards. Romans 12:1-2 teaches us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice and to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds”. Just last year we were blessed to see this in action.

    A young woman we’ve known since she was a wee child came to spend a time with us. Although her parents are christians they had not been taught how to teach their daughters. As this young woman developed physically she also developed friends who encouraged her to “show what you have”. Her father’s complaints were taken to be the remarks of someone hopelessly out of touch with reality and ignored. Anyway, she ended up at our place because she needed a place to go to escape a boyfriend who was threatening her life. We took her in and gave her love and acceptance. As she came to fit into the home we were able to develop a closer relationship with her and we started working towards changing her way of thinking, because that was the root of the problem. As she started learning about God’s love and her own sinful nature she decided to accept Jesus the Christ as the Lord of her life. And that is when we started seeing the changes we’d been praying for.

    We got a book for her that tells young women what their way of dressing says to the average man or boy on the street. And that was something that her so called friends had never told her. I had been able to tell her some things, her father had tried to tell her in his own way, but that book finally opened her eyes to what she was saying with her way of dressing – and it was NOT what was on her heart. She had NO intention of sending off such a communication, but society had lead her down that path.

    The big problem was that she had no means of changing her wardrobe and we did not have extra funds at that point either. But the Lord provided in various ways and she was able to obtain some new blouses that really made a difference. Eventually she returned home, a changed person in more than just her wardrobe. The change of attire merely reflects the changed heart within.

    Just last month my wife and I were traveling through her home town and we stopped in to see her family. She was as lovely as ever and her family is very grateful that we allowed the Lord to use us as His instruments to help her out. What “did the trick” was loving her as she was and NOT pushing for external change. As we love her into Christ she began to change on the inside. And those internal changes eventually “bled through” into external changes in her way of dressing.

    On a side note, when we lived and ministered in Brazil there was a sect which was very strict about outside adornment. Long dresses, long hair and not jewelry were the norm for their women. But so much emphasis on the external had lead them to forget the internal aspects of the Gospel. Their women were also characterized as gossips, liars and nags. They had “all the right things” about their attire (according to their way of thinking) but had neglected the inner beauty that belongs to a person truly guided and ruled by Jesus the Christ. To those who didn’t measure up to their standard they could be very vicious. No love was shown to those who were “in the wrong” according to their narrow view, just a call to repentance from a way of dressing rather than repentance from a way of thinking.

    God’s message is one of redemption. He takes the prodigal from the mire of the hog pen, washes him clean and gives him new clothes. But it all starts when the person decides that they want to get out of the mire. The change works from the inside until it works its way all the way through a person’s being.

  9. Mrs. Janowiak says:

    Hello~
    So glad to find fellowship with likeminded believers. So hungry for the pursuit of holiness.
    My experience was much like Stephanie Nicole’s. I didn’t realize my stumbling ability to my brothers until my husband pointed out how a man responds to immodesty. The Lord has changed my thinking especially as I raise daughters. I had to be transformed and encouraged by others modest dress and comments at the right time of why they dressed that way. It’s been a work in progress for 18 years. We attend a church that is culturally driven in many ways, so I struggle with judging, but my desire is for us to be an example of purity and holiness
    as the Lord leads our family in love and remember I was there too.

  10. AllGloriousWithin says:

    Jasmine,

    Thank you for both the grace & truth you show as you shed light on this topic from such a biblical perspective! My Father is a Pastor of two churches that have a heart to follow God’s command in reaching out to a lost world with the gospel. Of course, along with that comes many ladies (young and old, believers and non-believers) who have simply not learned how to dress in a way that pleases the Lord.

    I have watched young ladies and had to (as a lady myself) concentrate on looking at their face because of the revealing outfits they were wearing. But, in time, with much love, discipleship, and encouragement from older sisters in Christ, I have watched so many of these same ladies slowly allow the Lord to change their hearts.

    There is one girl in particular who said that she was “thrown off at first” with how kind we were to her even though she was “different.” This young lady has become one of the most godly (and, I might add, most modest) girls in our church family. She has actually become one of my closer sisters in Christ. Her family has grown leaps and bounds over the past year–and they greatly accredit it to the love and care of our church family to their family, especially their daughter.

    Our prideful nature (yes, i’m guilty at times too!) wants to look down upon others who don’t measure up to our standards. But, once we remember that our righteousness, without the precious blood of Christ, is nothing more than filthy rags, we can love those who are ignorant of Christ’s commands and gently lead them to being more pleasing to Him.

    Thank you again for your wisdom and insight. Your love for the Lord, righteousness, purity, Biblical daughterhood, and serving your family family greatly inspires me to greater heights for the Lord!

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