Preface: “What are you — nuts?!”
Just thought I’d lead with the question you’ll be wondering in a few minutes. I am about to stick my finger in the fan, about up to my elbow, and I know it. But I really think someone needs to say this — and why not me? I have less to lose than many who’ve thought the same thing, but daren’t say it.
This is likely to get the water hotter than the first or second Wright posting did. If I was accused of “ignorance” in daring to Touch The Academy’s Anointed… well, just wait. And it won’t matter that I will dance more precisely than ever before. (See? “Dance.” Already have some Baptists mad at me.)
So here we go.
What will change, and what won’t. Spring’s springing, and summer looms. Mercury rises, fashions change. But one thing that won’t change, unless I’m badly and happily mistaken: some good and regular churchgoers will not dress as helpfully as they could.
I chose that word with care: “helpfully.” I am not talking about sin, shame, indecency, wantonness, or the like. Perhaps I could, with some justification, in some cases. But that’s for another time — and probably another writer. At this point, I just want to talk about being helpful.
Sister, if there’s one thing you and I can certainly agree on, it’s this: I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, and you don’t know what it’s like to be a man. We’re both probably wrong where we’re sure we’re right, try as we might. So let me try to dart a telegram from my camp over to the distaff side.
“Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man” (Proverbs 27:20). Solomon doesn’t use the Hebrew words that would indicate males exclusively, so this and Ecclesiastes 1:8 may apply across the gender-board. Libbie pointed out very ably that we men wrongly assume that we alone battle with temptations entering through the eye-gate.
But. But if men aren’t alone in the battle, they may have a particular weakness for this aspect of it. Consider passionately-godly King David, whose psalms express aspirations after God beside which our own are pale, bloodless things. One day King David is in the wrong place, at the wrong time; sees a naked woman bathing next door, and boom! – he’s gone (2 Samuel 11). Family, kingdom, God — all forgotten, consumed in the flash-flame of a lust that was only visual in its inception.
And what of that Israelite Philistine Samson and his own “eye trouble?” He sees a fetching young pagan, and bellows at his dad, “Get her for me, for she looks good to me” (Judges 14:3 NAS). Where did Samson’s passions take him? How did his course end?
Unless all the men I’ve known personally or at a distance are completely unrepresentative, it’s a lifelong struggle, a lifelong weakness. As I recall from a Proverbs lecture on mp3, Bruce Waltke says that his dad, at around age 100, told him, “Bruce, I still have the same struggles I did when I was 50.” It was sobering for Dr. Waltke to hear; sobering for any man! (In fact, put me down for “disheartening.”)
Where am I going with this? Oh, don’t try to look so innocent. You know exactly where I’m going.
So here comes this brother into the assembly of the saints, hoping for a rest from the battles of the week, a moment to regroup, sing, pray, get the Word, fellowship. He looks up to the choir, or to his left or his right — and in a tick of the clock, he’s facing the same struggle he faced every time he turned on his TV, opened a magazine, or went down a city street. He’s seeing things that make it far too easy for him not to keep his mind focused where it needs to be focused.
And he’s not in a nightclub, he’s not at a singles’ bar, he’s not at the beach. He’s in church.
Now, some very direct disclaimers:
- Every man’s sin is his own, and every man’s struggle is his own (Proverbs 14:10)
- No one makes a man think or feel anything (Proverbs 4:23)
- It is each individual’s responsibility to guard his own heart (Proverbs 4:23)
- Beauty is a wonderful gift of God (cf. Exodus 28:2; Song of Solomon 1:8, 15, etc.)
Having said all that: while it may be true that I’m holding the matches, you won’t help me if you pile twigs all around my feet and douse them with lighter fluid. To be more specific: if you know I’ve had trouble with drunkenness, you won’t offer me a glass of wine. If you know I battle covetousness, you won’t take me window-shopping in high-end stores I’ve no business frequenting.
So I put this question: what are some sisters thinking, in how they dress?
As the ladies pick clothes, they’ll consider what’s pretty, what’s flattering, what’s attractive. Who could blame them? But, “attractive” to whom? In what way? To what end? With what focus?
Consider the questions again. “Is it pretty?” Good question, no evil in it. “Is it comfortable, is it complimentary, is it fun?” No problem. I’d just suggest you add one more question: “Is it helpful, or is it hurtful, to my brothers in Christ? Will this unintentionally contribute to their having a focus that is harmful to their walk?”
Now, lookie here:
In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; 19 the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves; 20 the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; 21 the signet rings and nose rings; 22 the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; 23 the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils. (Isaiah 3:18-23)
…likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness–with good works. (1 Timothy 2:9-10)
Do not let your adorning be external–the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing– 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (1 Peter 3:3-4)
Immediately we’ll swing in, as we always do, and say, “Now, the writer’s not saying that women can’t dress nicely, or wear jewelry, or blah blah blah.” And we’ll all disown our Fundie forebears who focused on nylons and lipstick, and came up with precise hemline measurements. We’ll want to make sure that we’re not advocating a new line of Burqaware for evangelical women. All that will be true and valid enough.
But I’m concerned that, in our anxiety to be sure to prevent the wrong interpretation, we effectively cut off all interpretation. We have swung from making the passages say silly things, to not letting them say anything. These passages have to mean something! They must have some application! What is it?
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