I am sitting on the floor looking through boxes of old pictures from college and I’m cringing. And not just because college is now fourteen years behind me and the hairstyles were bad (which they were). Picture after picture of revealing dresses and low-cut shirts. I was a Christian, but modesty was not on my radar. Instead:
Flaunt your assets.
Get his attention.
And his friend’s attention, too.
Make all the guys want you and all the girls want to be like you.
Turn the head of anyone and everyone because that means you are valuable, worthwhile, pretty. It rang like an anthem in my head. You are only as valuable as the amount of people who turn to look at you, men and women alike. When I see those pictures of myself, I cringe at the choices I made in clothing, yes. But I also cringe at the lies I believed and the truth I ignored. The anthem of lies played in my head and my heart like the beating of a drum.
The struggle is real.
We make peace with thoughts that stand in opposition to the gospel. We allow something other than the truths of Scripture to linger and take root in our hearts and our minds. We are always looking to someone or something as an example to follow. The struggle is real between culture’s standards of modesty and what the Word of God says. Here are some lies we often believe:
I have the right to wear what I want.
Modesty means long, denim skirts.
I cannot dress attractively and modestly at the same time.
Modesty is just for prudes.
Getting attention means I am valuable and pretty.
Modesty is a matter of our hearts and not just our clothes.
Modesty is not a popular conversation in our culture where individualism and self-love reign. We often think about modesty in terms of oppressive, outdated rules: turtlenecks, unflattering clothing, denim skirts sweeping the floor. While we should make wise choices about what we wear, modesty goes deeper than our wardrobe and is actually a reflection of the intentions of our hearts. My motivation in choosing to dress immodestly was driven by my love for myself more than my love for God and love for others. I wanted to be the center of coveted attention and would choose my dress accordingly. My value and worth were directly linked to what other people thought of me with no regard for the truth of Scripture:
Imperishable beauty is a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4)
We are made worthy by the blood of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21)
We are image-bearers of God (Genesis 1:27)
We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)
We have been set free.
We were once daughters and sons of darkness, enslaved to sin, lovers of self. Because Christ died to set us free, we may now rest in His perfect love over us. Our identities are secure in Him. We no longer have to strive for acceptance and love because we are fully and wholly accepted through the flawless life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We are free to love God and love others more than we love ourselves. We are able to make wise choices about our clothes as a gift to our brothers and sisters in an effort to take the attention off of ourselves and to help them love God more. We no longer have to fight to be at the center of another man or woman’s attention because the complete attention and perfect love of our Creator us has been lavished upon us. We are free to dress creatively and beautifully. The One who created us loves beauty; He created beautiful things! We would be wise to repent of using our bodies as bait for the fleeting pleasure of man’s approval and reorient our standards of beauty to what God calls beautiful.
Declare a new anthem.
Romans 6:12-13 says: Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
May we live as daughters and sons of light, bearing the image of our Father in heaven who makes beautiful things out of broken, selfish people.
Molly Rigoloso lives in Manhattan with her husband, Justin. Together they serve the people of Apostles Church on the Upper East Side.