Last week I wrote “Bikinis, Modesty, and the Image of God“, which was a dangerous foray into fashion, particularly women’s fashion, by a man who wears happy socks (see my pic below where I kill time at LAX by putting on a sock fashion show with my boys).
This blog post garnered some great response including a few solid critiques. I appreciate the suggestions on how to improve since I am blogging for two reasons: to think deeper on a variety of topics and to become a better writer through the disciplined practice of weekly blogging.
One critique was the need for someone to exhort men to treat women with dignity and respect in a culture “where women are disproportionately blamed for men’s sinful actions.” I think this is an excellent idea and is the goal of today’s blog post.
In “Bikinis, Modesty, and the Image of God” I made the case that we are responsible to each other regarding modesty. As Paul writes in Galatians 5:13, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” In other words, we need to sacrifice freedom in wardrobe choices in order to ensure that we are not the object of another person’s sin.
This is not to say that the blame for sin lies with another person. In fact, in dealing with this issue – modesty and sexuality – a persistent problem exists in which we tend to blame the victim.
For example, just this past week personal pictures were released online of a whole host of celebs, most of them women. I agree with those who contend that this is not just an invasion of privacy but also a sexual crime. Unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly, people made the comments that the celebs are to blame for taking the pictures in the first place. While I agree that naked selfies are foolish, it is abhorrent to blame the victim.
Blaming the victim – or in the case of lust and modesty, blaming the object of desire – is moving the responsibility for sin from the perpetrator to the object of sin.
Which leads to my first point in the exhortation to men about modesty:
1) You are responsible for your own sin.
Don’t blame the bikini wearer for your lust. Instead, as Paul advocates in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, discipline yourself against looking and longing.
“24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
The day after I wrote last week’s post I went with my family to NRH20, a family water park. At this family park were plenty of bikinis. It requires discipline to not look twice. It requires discipline not to lust.
Owning your own sin and disciplining yourself against it is one of the callings of the Christian life.
It would be much easier to look and blame the victim. But what Jesus tells his disciples is that sin doesn’t originate from outside of us (the object of our desire) but from within.
2) The origination of sin is within us – not from outside.
In Matthew 15:1-20, Jesus’s good friends, the Pharisees, call Jesus and his disciples out for not washing their hands before eating. While washing hands before eating has its own (self-evident) value, it is certainly not a sin to neglect to wash one’s hands.
But according to the Pharisees, by not washing their hands the disciples allowed defilement to enter into their body. In the way that only he can, Jesus turns the discussion on its head and produces a profound insight into the relationship between humanity and sin. He articulates it most clearly in verses 19-20, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.“
While it is tempting to blame the object of desire – the bikini clad voluptuous – the fault for sin originates within us. Which just goes to support the main idea of this post:
Men – you are responsible for your own sin. Fighting desire (in this case lust) requires discipline.
However, when we do the opposite – blame a woman for her immodesty – and thereby make her an object of desire we neglect to acknowledge the image of God.
3) Women are (also) made in the image of God.
It is a profound and mysterious revelation of God that we are made in his image. It’s not even all that clear what it means. But it is clear that there are two components of being made in the image of God that are pertinent to this discussion: beauty and purity.
Men never neglect that a woman’s beauty is one way she shows the image of God. (Her intelligence, creativity and ingenuity is too!)
When we make a woman an object of lust, we violate the image-bearing aspect of her beauty.
We must also not forget that purity is a part of being God’s image bearers. In 1 Peter 1, the apostle Peter writes that we must be holy for God is holy. God’s holiness – his unblemished purity – is an expectation of his children.
When we make a woman an object of lust, we violate the image-bearing expectation of our purity.
Respect beauty. Retain purity.
Men – you are responsible for your own sin. Fighting desire (in this case lust) requires discipline. By disciplining yourself against lust you will be respecting the image-bearing beauty of women while retaining the image-bearing purity you are called to.
By demonstrating modesty and discipline, we will do exactly what we are called to do – sacrificially serve one another.