Come As You Are?
Come as you are or come as long as you meet dress code?
Let’s talk about a hot topic in modern Christianity: modesty.
I’ve heard every “dress code” for church services from a variety of denominations. These range from no leggings, make sure your jeans fit loose, and don’t wear name brands to “come as you are, we mean it.”
I’ve worn a Varsity Cheerleading uniform to DNow because it was right after a school event and I didn’t have time to change. You read that right, I went to a youth rally in a cheer skirt and no one said a thing.. because I showed up. We should strive to be modest, but we should focus more on showing up to church and being open when new people walk through the door, regardless of if they fit “dress code.”
Generally speaking, the church does a poor job when it comes to discussing modesty. The focus is typically on females and how we should hide our body to keep our brothers from stumbling. While I agree that we should strive to set a Christ-like example for our brothers, a lusting man is going to find a woman’s body attractive whether she is in a crop top and mini skirt or sweatpants and a t-shirt that’s three sizes too big.
Lustful thoughts lead to lustful actions, which can then lead to crime if it’s not controlled. (I’m not saying that everyone who has lusted after someone else is a criminal, I’m just connecting the from A (lust) to Z (assault)). On the extreme-side of this (because it occurs entirely too much in our culture, and porn is a key player in this, which should also be discussed), sexual assault happens entirely too frequently. If someone is going to rape someone else, it is 110% the rapist’s fault. Ladies (and gents), do not let anyone ever make you feel as if you deserved to be taken advantage of because of your clothing choices. A rapist is going to get what he or she wants regardless of what you’re wearing. Don’t feel ashamed over their actions. There is healing to be found in Jesus and you are worth so much more than how they made you feel. (Song suggestions: Broken Girl by Matthew West; Does Anybody Hear Her by Casting Crowns).
We teach our young girls to cover their bodies, leading (whether indirectly or directly) to them hating their own bodies and potentially worse, like developing an eating disorder. Women are taught to be ashamed of their features while men are praised for their built bodies or “dad bods.” Women are told to cover up at the pool, at the gym, at Bible study, at school, and men typically don’t have a dress code. It goes something like, “Camp is this weekend. Ladies, no Nike shorts, (go buy basketball shorts you’re never going to wear again) 1 piece swimsuits with no cut outs only (maybe wear a shirt over it too, or some shorts), no leggings, no tank tops, no visible sports bras, dresses must be knee length.. Are we clear? Guys, bring enough clothes for all weekend. Please shower, and maybe consider wearing a t-shirt to the pool.”
This carries over to high school activities. Girls have stricter dress codes, get called-out more for their sports uniforms, and are still expected to follow society’s beauty rules so they won’t be excluded.
I was a highschool majorette. I love the sport of baton twirling, and coach to this day. I felt confident in my talent, my strength, my coordination, and beautiful in my uniforms. In case you’re new to the world of baton twirling, the uniform is essentially a sparkly swimsuit. I was told countless times throughout high school that my sport was inappropriate because of the uniform requirements. I heard comments like, “If it’s between causing men to sin due to immodesty and quitting, you should quit,” and “my daughter wants to be a majorette, but I would never let her because of the uniforms and routines.” I have been involved in this sport in one way or another for the past 10 years. I have seen some uniforms that even I consider a bit inappropriate over the years, but I have never once received unwanted male attention due to my uniform. (With the exception of one student section (not my high school’s) that called us names and were suspended because administration realized that the boys were the problem, not the uniforms). We were told to change into our cheer uniforms right before the pep rally because our skirts were too short, but football players were allowed to wear their fitted jerseys all day. I don’t know if you’ve ever been a teenage girl, but we talked about how good they looked in their jerseys, uniforms, and baseball pants. Men were allowed to take off their shirts after running track or cross country in front of everyone (I don’t blame them; I would want to, too), but I cannot imagine the uproar that would occur if a female runner were to do the same thing.
Now onto “name brand clothing,” which is a new one for me, and one I will likely never understand.
I was fortunate enough to live in a home where I pretty much got what I wanted when it came to name brand clothing, shoes, etc. That being said, my parents weren’t trying to spoil me or turn me into a materialistic person. I have been taught, and learned through trial and error, that quality is worth the investment. To compare: I bought a Vineyard Vines cardigan in the 9th grade that I have worn for years and it still looks new. I bought a target cardigan that I wore 5 times and it has 3 holes in it. This is not me attempting to brag in anyway, it’s simply my opinion on the matter. I’ve worn name brand clothing on mission trips in the U.S., and I promise the children I served did not care if my shirt was $50 or $5, they cared that I was spending time with them and showing them Jesus.
I do not think God cares where I buy my clothes as long as I don’t view brands as idols and remain an active member of his kingdom.
With all of that being covered, modesty is a two-way street. Women should not dress with intent of causing men to view her sexually, and men should be able to resist acting on lustful desires. We should teach men to value women for more than their reproductive organs and we should teach women to dress modestly as a form of self-respect and worship instead of dressing modestly for the male’s benefit.
Friendly reminder that God used prostitutes to spread his message, so your Nike shorts aren’t going to hinder you from advancing the kingdom.
Men and women have different gender roles, but the difference in “dress code” is getting out of hand.
We celebrate men, both in the church and outside of it. Men are looked at as strong, capable leaders, and women? Women are baby machines whose sole purpose is to serve her husband.
With that being said, I do not personally have anything against women not being “allowed” to serve in many leadership roles, but we should spend some time encouraging women to get involved where they fit. This could be leading a children’s class, cooking for a Bible study, hosting a women’s group, etc., but the church spends little to no time teaching this. Men are taught from a young age about different areas of service. Young men lead prayer, singing, and take up the offering, but women are taught to essentially “sit down and shut up.”
Combining this with the legalistic message of modesty leads to greater insecurity among women in the body.
Women, you are worthy. Your voice deserves to be heard. Your opinions matter. And Jesus still died for you whether you show up in stained sweatpants or a $300 dress. Come as you are, and if you feel un-welcomed because you are dressed a certain way, ask yourself if you feel un-welcomed because of the judgement of legalistic churches or if you feel convicted for attempting to sexualize your body through your clothing choices.
Regardless, a Christ-centered church will plead: “Come as you are!” They will not care if your dress touches your ankles, if you have to come in the only jeans you own, or if you show up in pajamas. These are all worldly views, and while God is worth our best, we must differentiate between individualized best (due to poverty, lack of available sizing, time to change, etc), and what society views as acceptable church attire.
Ladies, honor Christ in your dress and Church, start truly teaching men that ladies are more than their bodies. We must tackle the heart issues first, or true modesty will never be able to be reached.
Passages and Verses to Consider:
John 8 English Standard Version (ESV) 8 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.5 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]
If Jesus can use a prostitute, he can use you!
Proverbs 31:30 English Standard Version (ESV) 30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
True beauty comes from within, and ladies, you are beautiful inside and out and worthy of praise!
Regarding sexual assault: David and Bathsheba
God designed our bodies,”fearfully and wonderfully,” NOT shamefully: Psalm 139
We should strive to make sure our peers don’t stumble because of us and be Christ-like in our dress: Romans 14:13-23 if we honor Christ in our dress and men still view us with lustful eyes, it is not our fault.