Last week, I set the issue of modesty in the context of love, i.e., a woman’s responsibility to love her brothers in Christ. This week, I am going to offer some other questions for Christian couples to discuss (or single ladies to think about) when considering the wife’s choice of swimwear. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a list of key questions that should drive the decision process. Again, I am not proposing a certain swimsuit, but hope to offer probing questions that get to the “heart” of the matter.
1. What is my motive for this choice of a bathing suit? This is the heart question. All of our actions must be evaluated from the inside out and the choice of swimwear is no exception. Regardless of your swimwear, if your primary motive for wearing a certain swimsuit is not a love for God & neighbor (i.e. last week’s post) (Matthew 22:37–39) and a desire to see him exalted (1 Corinthians 10:31), then it is sinful. So ladies, what is the number one thing on your mind when you shop for a swimsuit? showing off your figure? your tan line? attracting the attention of men? the opinions of others (i.e. fashion)? OR is your primary motivation to display Christ, please Christ, reflect his glory, and advance his life-changing Gospel? Of course, this latter question should be the primary factor in your decision. Unfortunately, too many Christian women make their decision for a swimsuit solely on the basis of the former list of questions. Such motives, when primary, are not only the opposite of a Gospel-centered life, but usually result in swimwear that is too revealing.
Let me give a couple of caveats at this point. In the previous paragraph, I am not saying that a woman cannot dress fashionable/stylish and glorify God at the same time. There is nothing necessarily wrong with wearing a stylish swimsuit. The problem comes when a woman’s desire to be fashionable becomes more important than her desire to glorify Christ. Also, some women want certain portions of their bodies to be tan for their husbands. This is definitely a good desire, but it should not be used as an excuse to dress immodestly in public. My advise to a woman who wants her “high risk” areas tan for her husband is to tan in a private place (e.g. behind a privacy fence).
2. Is my husband in full agreement with my choice of a swimsuit? Wives, if you have a husband who is concerned about the gospel, he should be leading in this area (Ephesians 5:22–24). If your husband is not leading, you can simply ask him one question: If I were not your wife, would you be tempted to lust after me in this swimsuit? Now, your husband should have a holy jealousy for your body. In fact, he has authority over it (just as you have authority over his-see 1 Corinthians 7:4). He should want to cover certain parts of your body from the eyes of others and reserve them only for himself. Personally, I know which parts of my wife’s body I never want another man’s eyes to see. These parts are off limits whether we are at church or at a swimming pool! How despicable is the man who likes his wife to wear skimpy swimwear (or clothes in general) so he can show her off! Such an attitude is the opposite of what Christ desires. If your man loves you, he will not treat you as a trophy, but as a queen! So men, if you are not leading your wife in this area…man up!
3. Would I be comfortable sharing Christ with another person while wearing this bathing suit? To me, this is a very important question! In fact, this question is not even on the radar screen of most of the women I know who choose to dress immodestly. Let me put it a little more bluntly: If you were to walk up to a man in your swimsuit in order to share Christ with him, would he be able to hear the message of the Gospel over the screams of your cleavage, mid-drift, buttocks, etc.?
Next week I will turn my attention to the men and the issue of lust, but I do pray that everyone will seriously consider the issues I have raised in these two posts on modesty. Do I believe these questions are the “magic bullets” which will finally settle this debated issue within Christian circles? Far be it! My goal in these posts has been to switch the discussion from legalistic external questions to the most important questions of motive and love. Too few Christians think through important issues like this simply because the Bible does not give us black and white guidelines. Don’t be a Christian who refuses to deal with difficult topics. Think hard and critically so you can live in a manner “worthy of the Gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27).