Friday, December 30, 2005

Dress Standards

Few people, if any, argue that the issue of dress standards is controversial. I believe there are several reasons for this BUT the main reason is because of individual pride. What you wear says a lot about who you are and when some criticizes your wardrobe they are in essence criticizing you as a person. No one likes being told they are stupid but when someone says, “that outfit looks stupid,” they are actually saying you look stupid and are stupid for wearing it.

When a preacher says, “this kind of attire is worldly… sinful… wicked…” it is then perceived by the person wearing that outfit that the preacher is calling them worldly, sinful, and wicked.

People become extremely defensive in this area. “Who gives you the right to tell people what to wear?” or “Where does it say that in the Bible,” are the usual comebacks. Well, let’s take a look at this controversial issue in a Biblical light.

MODESTY

1Ti 2:9

In like manner
also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.”

No one argues that the Bible teaches modesty but the definition of modesty has become a point of contention. In simple terms modesty means not flaunting sexuality or being provocative. Any article of clothing that is designed to draw attention to sexual areas of the body by either leaving it exposed, near exposed, or fitting in such a manner as to accent it and highlight it for public attention is immodest. Period.

There is no such thing as a modest two piece bathing suit or a modest mini skirt or half shirt or spandex or bikini briefs on men etc. Whether or not it leads to immoral behavior is not the question. The question is does it violate scripture and the answer is yes.

Exo 28:42

“And thou shalt make them linen breeches
to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach.” The word nakedness in scripture has two means. One is the literal exposure of skin and the other is our spiritual nakedness before God. What is the first thing that Adam and Eve did when they sinned? They covered themselves. Man was not capable of covering his spiritual nakedness and that required Christ’s sacrifice but mans’ actual bodily nakedness then became a biblical mandate to be covered.

Yes, men are to be modest. Many women feel that there is more pressure put on them then on the men. That’s true. The main two reasons are (1) the Bible specifically addresses more of this at women (2) men are most times stimulated through the eyes of what they see. So when a woman says, “this is how I dress and if some guy has a problem with it then that’s his problem.” No, if she is clearly dressing immodestly which creates a sexual arousal then she is at fault for tempting.

GENDER DISTINCTION

Deu 22:5

The woman
shall not wear that which pertained unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

If a man walked into church wearing a dress, heels, and makeup what would most people think? Cross dresser. Clearly wrong. Why? That’s women’s apparel. So what about pants on women?

Today, pants are considered acceptable attire for either men or women. Are dresses? No. Go to a public restroom facility and what picture do they to identify the difference between the men’s room and the ladies’ room… one has a dress on and the other has pants on. Which sign is for which room?

Genesis specifically states the God created male and female. They were created differently, with different needs, and different make up. God wants there to be a distinction between them in their roles in life, there place in His kingdom, and even their physical appearance. Paul admonished the Church at Corinth by stating that long hair on women was a crowning glory while long hair on men was a shame. It eroded the distinction.

Satan rebelled because he desired God’s glory. Man was created a little lower than the angels but one day will receive a glorified body which means our being elevated above what satan was before he rebelled. His desire is to keep us from giving God glory. Is it any shock that satan desires to devalue the distinctions God created? Trans gendered people are now fighting for their rights and place in acceptable society.

When you see a woman with a crew cut, no make up, and men’s jeans on what’s the first thing that runs through your mind?

Pants have become as accepted on women as necklaces have on men. Now, I admit that in most cases there is a stark difference between men’s pants and women’s pants. To be honest there is no verse that states pants on women is wrong. Neither is there a verse that says dresses on men is wrong. Deuteronomy teaches it is wrong for men and women to wear what has been appointed to the opposite sex to wear.

Honestly, there are women in the church I pastor who wear pants and they are treated with respect and dignity and are never singled out nor scorned. We teach plainly that God desires a distinction between the sexes. Modesty on our activities and in our school is mandated. In their own homes it is between them and God.

I will also add this and expound on it in another edition… young men do treat young ladies differently when they look like young ladies and not their brother or a street walker.

CULTURAL APPROPRIATENESS

Phi 4:5 "Let your moderation be known unto all men."

A couple of years ago I became aware of the “gansta rapper” cultural based on what some of our public school kids were wearing. In talking with one of those boys I asked, “what would you do if I dropped you off in a neighborhood where those gang colors could get you into all kinds of trouble?” BTW, I did this privately and did not embarrass him in public about it.

A New York State prison administrator shared with me that the baggy, oversized pants worn down below the hips with two inches of boxer shorts exposed was a way that homosexual inmates advertised their availability among the prison population. Now, that may not be what the rapper on the MTV video was advertising that our kids imitate BUT that was how it originated.

In short… we teach our young people to not dress in the styles and cultures that are in direct opposition to Christian faith and values. No, Christian young people should dress in Goth, or look punk rock with multiple body piercing and tattoos, dress like calls girls, or look like an MTV video. Those cultures are in direct opposition to traditional culture.

On the flip side we also teach appropriateness. I don’t wear a suit to a baseball game nor do I wear cut offs and flip flops to church. Do I ever wear shorts? Sure. Knee length shorts for basketball or casual kahkis on the golf course are more than appropriate. If I know that someone else is bothered by it then I don’t wear it when I’m with them.

Bottom line… when putting something on search your heart before God and His Word if its appropriate.

Next Issue on 1/3/06... Behavior Standards! Who says I can’t drink or gamble???

Thursday, December 29, 2005

What About Standards???


Webster’s defines the word “standard” as something established for use as a rule of measurement for judging value, quality, or content. In churches today we seem to use it as a measure for judging the character and quality of someone’s Christian life and morality.

Preaching on the subject of standards can be difficult at best because many people assume they are subjective… “what’s a conviction for you is liberty for me.” BUT are standards subjective or, better worded, should standards be subjective? The answer is simple, NO. If standards are rules how can they be subjective when being used as a measuring guide?

I am a certified Basketball Referee. How could I properly officiate the game if every team made up its own rules? Now, each year the NFHS does update, modify, or change rules BUT all schools are subject to those changes. For example, when I first became a ref over 16 year ago players on a foul shot could enter the key when the ball left the shooters hands. Now the ball must hit the rim of the cylinder (touch iron) before players can attempt a rebound. These are man made rules which means they are subject to change as man changes his mind.

In MLB (Major League Baseball) it has bothered me for years that there is no standard for the outfield fence. In one park centerfield may be 425 feet from home while in another park it’s 399 feet. What’s the difference besides distance? Records. Should a player’s forty home runs in a smaller ball park mean more than another player’s 35 home runs in a big, deeper park? Every sport from football to soccer to basketball has a standard, uniform size playing area so why not baseball? It makes the game subjective. In Boston at Finway Park you need to hit the ball 2 miles in the air to clear the short distance in left field over the “green monster” while in Houston and San Francisco they have jigs, jogs, and even a hill in play in the outfield. Then there are parks where the fence is simply a straight shot in one direction or another. Home field advantage takes on a whole new meaning when the playing area is not a uniform standard but subjective.

Now to the church… should there not be standards to help you stay on track? Most people would answer “Yes” as long as those standards are in keeping with the Bible. Presbyterians accuse Baptists of being too loose with church structure and church government while Baptists blast Presbyterians for being too loose with dress standards and rules of personal conduct. Both claim Biblical authority.

Over the next several days we will examine standards for the life of the believer in conduct, dress, and function. Tomorrow’s installment: What Does the Bible Say About Dress Standards?

I believe the Bible clearly teaches three things about dress:

I. MODESTY

II. GENDER DISTINCTION

III. CULTURAL APPROPRIATENESS

Stay tuned…