In my first post on modesty I addressed the question “How do you think through your own modesty?” Today I would like to address the question “How do you think through others' modesty?” I’ll cut to the chase, give you the quick answer, and then spend a little time explaining why.
How do you think through other’s modesty? Mostly, you don’t. You mind your business.
There are at least 3 reasons for this.
1. Other people’s sin is a splinter compared to your log. Certainly, Jesus’ teaching on the issue of addressing a brother or sister’s sin emphasizes the priority of examining yourself. Of course, there are times and places to address other people’s sin, which is part of the implication of Jesus’ teaching here. However, Jesus is saying that from your perspective, your sin should be so big and visible, that is like having a giant log jutting out of your face. In my experience, Jesus’ teaching on the log and splinter principle is a needed corrective to people who are really too quick to be concerned with others’ sin. What if others are immodest? What if they cause men to stumble? What if they_____? They. They. They.
2. We have limited authority. The role of the Christian is not to serve as a police state in the world, and not even in the church. We mostly encourage and preach the gospel, we occasionally rebuke and challenge. And when we do rebuke and challenge, I believe we should limit that role greatly to the relationships where we have been granted clear authority. For most people, this will be a very small circle of influence – your children, your spouse, perhaps a ministry you have been granted authority over. Unless you are an elder, you haven’t been granted authority over the church as a whole. And even the elders, who do have oversight over the whole church, still need to be balanced by point 1, and especially point 3.
3. Blatant legalism. The reality is that the issue of modesty is one that quickly plunges into legalism once we try to establish some sort of standard. Modesty is a principle that is addressed in Scripture, without any dress code established. What often happens, however, is that people establish a dress code in their own mind, usually one that is in line with how they dress, they then become the standard of modesty in their own eyes, and anyone who is seen as violating that standard is seen as obviously not taking the modesty principle seriously. This is classic, textbook, Pharisaical legalism. The girl wearing the __________ is obviously immodest, but I, because I wear ___________ obviously am not. The reality is that there is always someone to the right of you who thinks that YOU are the one that is violating THEIR obviously modest standard. You think yoga pants are immodest (lust inducing, even), the next person says the same about jeans. Then pants in general, then shoulders showing, then arms, then faces and eyes. We better cover up those lust inducing faces! Some of you might say, "That's absurd. Certainly there is a clear line that is obvious when it is crossed." Well I am certain I don't know where it is, and I would be very nervous about someone claiming to know that, not just for themselves, but for others as well. This stinks of death, and I would rather have a church full of immodest people than a church that is so egregiously trampling grace.
Grace is dangerous. It creates room for sin. What if people sin? What if they are immodest? What if people lust? Well, I would encourage you to rest in the fact that God knows these things are happening in the church, and you are one the prime violators. But he runs the world and the church. One day Jesus will return, we will be glorified and immodesty will be a concern of the past. Until then, by grace, through faith, mind your business.