Varying Degrees

Can you have varying degrees of acceptable modesty? For example, on a Christian college campus is there a certain attire that is considered modest, and an attire that is immodest? And if there is such a standard, does it change? If you travel to a public university will the standard be different? If you travel to a public park will the standard be different? Will the standard be different at the beach? I can’t help but ask these questions after reading some letters to the editor in my college’s newspaper. The letters were dealing with lust and essentially pleading for the women on campus to dress modestly. Aside from the fact that modest is a relative term, how do we deal with the idea that there are varying degrees of acceptable modesty? What you might consider inappropriate attire for a college campus is perfectly reasonable for the beach. Why is that? Perhaps it’s just an issue of practicality and I should just shut up.

I’ve just been struggling with the issue because I don’t think the answer is as easy as we want it to be. Ask the girls to dress modestly and it’s all taken care of. How brave of the guys to step forward and ask such a noble question. But I don’t think it ends there. Frankly, I don’t think it should start there either. Certainly Paul talks in 1 Corinthians 8 about how Christians are not to be stumbling blocks for one another. It doesn’t help guys any if their Christian sisters are running around flaunting themselves. But in Matthew chapter 5 when Jesus claimed that looking at a woman lustfully was committing adultery with her, he told us if our right eye causes us to sin, gouge it out. I don’t think he meant for us to literally gouge our eyes out, but whatever he means, he means for us to do something drastic. Drastic and personal. He doesn’t tell us to attack what our eyes are looking at, he tells us to attack our own eyes. This issue isn’t simply about women dressing modestly. The time will come when you step away from the church and the women won’t dress modestly. What then?

I just want people to think things through a little deeper. Certainly I don’t have all the answers. It would probably do me good to think things through deeper myself. It just seems to me that the initial idea of forcing others to keep us pure is missing the whole point. The problem is personal, and the modesty of others will only get you so far.

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