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Monday, July 10, 2017

"It's A Guy Thing?": Why Christian Men Need Modesty, Too

A  modern Islamic approach to modest men's dress.
Heat on.

Shirts off.

It's summer time across the nation.

While those guys who failed to do their due diligence during the winter months must now decide between a last-ditch gym membership or a dark-colored t-shirt to wear to the pool, the shining rays of the summer sun have bid the cream of the crop to rise to the top in all their shirtless glory.

It's like reverse Twilight where all the hotties run the streets during the day while the rest of us watch from the windows, shades mostly drawn.

(Now that's a book I could relate to!)

Okay, it's not that bad, but the fresh summer heat does have its way of reigniting the dusty debate on Christian modesty.

Specifically, summer tends to bring out the year-round double standards endemic to the way believers talk about modesty to men versus how we talk about the same subject to women (for example, a brother showing off his physique in a beach selfie just seems so much less offensive than a sister doing the same in a bikini).

This is not as controversial a point as it might have once been.

Articles, blog posts, and opinion pieces fill the Internet lamenting the lop-sided burden Christian women bear compared to their male counterparts in the name of being modest.

In fact, we don't seem to talk about "male modesty" or to males about modesty ever.

Part of this confusion stems from New Testament itself whose most explicit verse using the word modesty in our English translations, 1 Timothy 2:9, and its sister verse, 1 Peter 3:3, have as their focus women.

no. no. no. NO!
Apart from Paul commanding men to keep their heads uncovered during prayer and when prophesying (1 Cor. 11:7), the New Testament is silent about male dress.

However, at the heart of the inconsistent modesty expectations among men and women is precisely the kind of thinking that equates modesty with dress.  

When modesty becomes an issue of dress and dress an issue of sex, modesty is reduced to sex and "being modest" to controlling one's sex appeal.

This doomed train of thought naturally lends itself to the historic male sexualization of women's bodies and fear of female sexuality, explaining why our male-dominated Christian culture has held the magnifying glass of modesty up to women far more than men.

Yet, Paul's own writings show he means sophrona (from the Greek sophia [wisdom], denoting sober-minded or prudent) to be a quality of Christian women (translated "modesty" in 1 Timothy 2:3) and a necessary qualification for male elders (translated "self-controlled" in Titus 1:8).

It's not simply about women.

Indeed, if we will examine their foundations, the two modesty verses directed at women open a door to a world of Bible passages about modest conduct which our false notions have trained us to gloss over.

Peter says, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight."

Likewise, Paul echoes, "I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God."

Clearly, the clothes are not the modesty.

The clothes are an expression of the modesty, which overflows from an inner spirit that makes little of oneself and much of one's God.

In this light, these verses join the tapestry of the New Testament's connected themes of modesty, humility, quietude, and good works:

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered on behalf of all men for kings and all those in authority, so that we may lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you

If pride is like a fire, modesty is the wet blanket we need to suffocate it.

At its heart, biblical modesty is about concealing self through humility and mortifying pride through holiness that we might be happy to see God, and not ourselves, glorified in all the good works we do unto Him.

This is a privilege of all Christians, sisters and brothers, with the expectation that when others see us it won't truly be us, but Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Don;t worry about what you wear, buy, or how you live is not the message of this blog post or the Bible.

But when the trees becomes the forest, the entire landscape is thrown out of balance, leaving many men ignorant to the fires of immodesty raging within them simply because they don't have breasts, hips, or thighs to cover up.

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