"To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law." -Paul (1 Corinthians 9:20-21)
We have to think missionally, as we engage the issues of modesty, propriety, sexuality, sensuality, nakedness vs nudity within our current culture. We have to take into account social norms, traditions, background, religious tradition or formation in thinking, art in all its forms and the impact of those mediums in forming opinion, perspective and experience. The people I am seeking to reach are born into a culture that will powerfully imprint it's pattern on the soul, psyche, thinking, appetites and perceptions of all these topics.
If we sat at a table with a woman from Tanzania, France, Iran, Texas, Seattle, Ukraine, Australia and South Korea...and talked about universal rules for modesty and sensuality; you could imagine the very complex conversation we would have. If a principle isn't applicable for all people, for all time, in every place...I think we need to be careful what we establish as gospel truth or religious law. And if our understandings of these topics are either corrupted or constrained by the "universality" principle...than that needs to be addressed as well.
You just can't lay one rule down for everyone...some people or cultures might need to put clothes on and some might need to take them off. The need of the heart and soul and the leading of the Spirit; is central, to the proper formation and shaping of Christ in people and cultures. Like Paul, I am free to say to one disciple...be circumcised for the sake of mission; and to another don't do it because it would be a devaluing of Christ's work.
Context...not situational ethics in the broad sense but Spirit led application of scriptural truth for the moment.
I know some women who need deliverance from a misapplication of modesty and cultural constraints. Their womanhood, beauty and freedom have been submerged and the glory of God is dimmed. Now that's not a endorsement of burning bra's etc...its an honest pastoral evaluation of seeing a form of bondage that eclipses women behind issues, other people's hang-ups and legalism or cultural morality...instead of the new creation in Christ.
I know other women who have no sense of Spirit guided and scripturally formed modesty. Their underwear is never under what they wear....You can here "Thar She Blows!!!!"...everytime they bend over, because the "Whale-Tail" made by her thong. Breasts are almost falling out of their blouses, nipples are poking through clothing thin enough to look through. Swimming with your kids with some women these days is like a 9th grade biology class minus the condom discussion.
It's a chaotic mess of realities colliding all around us. Redeemed men and women are in desperate need for discipleship in transformation of inner lives and for liberation from deadening religious "side hug" rules. The extremely challenging thing about all of this is...we are all thrown into this process together as a church.
Our religious world is a melting pot of backgrounds...we are not just "Jews" and "Gentiles" now...and the crazy multiplicity of views, backgrounds, beliefs, ideals, phobias, fears, sensitivities and judgments are sometimes...overwhelming.
Helping men and women discover godly beauty, to revel in the mystery and holiness of marital bliss is a high mountain to climb these days. Nudity has devalued nakedness and the fruit has been eaten from the tree. But even still there is a path towards the tree of life in these subjects. True sexual freedom is found in God not the gutter. True womanhood is a godly fruit of holiness not bought off a shelf or rack. Inner beauty is not at the exclusion of outer beauty in faith...its the illuminating glory of the body. Modest is hottest...and learning the secret of that truth will enhance the glory of God in us...not extinguish it.
Helping one another move from uncreated in Christ in both mind and heart and body; towards a human life being transformed from the inside out in these areas...is a process. I think websites and ministries like GirlTalk will help some women at certain places in their lives and for others they would hurt their growth. I think tools like this (Modesty Heart Check) can help a woman or man examine themselves and check their hearts but I also think they could bind.
In the end, I seek to help people discover and apply the restorative and liberating message of the gospel and work of the Spirit. A path that requires bold adherence to liberty and new creation truth not the curse or the fall and not the work of the law. This journey will produce repentance, restoration, transformation and freedom. Not banality, prudishness, subservience, dominance, authoritarianism, exploitation...not legalism or antinomianism.
It's not an easy endeavor....but it's worth the risks involved.
"For the glory of God is man...fully alive." -St. Ireanus
Picture by Gavin HargestAll rights reserved.