Well, here we are…the last post in our series “Living the Gospel at the Beach and Pool.” My purpose in this last post is to tackle two matters that are rarely addressed: 1) women & lust and 2) men & modesty. Basically, these issues are reversals of the two major topics that we have been examining thus far in this series (women and modesty & men and lust).
Women and Lust
For some reason, the topic of women and lust is rarely discussed in Christian circles. This is somewhat understandable when one considers how big of an issue lust is for almost all men. Yet, in our culture this is not a topic that can be ignored, especially when one considers the statistics regarding women and internet pornography (for example, 1 out of every 3 visitors to pornographic websites is a woman; for more statistics, see here). For many women, the temptation to lust is real, and like Christian men, believing women have a responsibility to guard their hearts and minds from such temptation. Since lust is definitely not a gray issue, the points I made in the previous two posts regarding men and lust can easily be applied to women. So, if you are a lady who struggles with lust, please refer to those previous posts. Only a deep love for Christ and a desire to please him in all things can help you overcome the powerful temptations that face you at the beach/pool.
Men and Modesty
If the matter of women and lust is often ignored, then the issue of men and modesty has been buried underground. It is somewhat assumed that if a man has swimming shorts of a descent length, then he is dressing modestly. Thankfully, I have never met a man who thinks wearing Speedos is permissible and I hope I never do. Not only are Speedos immodest, they are just plain NASTY! Now that we all have horrible images in our head, let’s move on. In what follows, I will tackle an important question that few men consider: Should men wear t-shirts when at the beach/pool? In short, my answer to this question is that there are some men who should wear t-shirts whenever they are at a beach or public pool. Since this is a gray area, I will offer to questions every man should ask himself in seeking two answer this question: 1) Am I being a stumbling block? and 2) Is taking off my shirt fuel for my arrogance?
Let’s face it, not every man has the physique of Vin Diesel. For some men, there is no chance of a woman lusting after them when they step out from the snack bar at the pool. However, there are some men whom the Lord has blessed with (and who have worked hard to get) an athletic build. In regard to such men, I think it is completely appropriate to raise the same questions I raised in my two posts on women and modesty. Some Christian men make light of the fact that they could be causing their sisters in Christ to stumble by not putting on a t-shirt in public. If you are such a man, I would simply remind you of what Paul said in Romans 14:21:
“It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.”
Men, we have no right to point fingers at our sisters in Christ without applying the same standards to ourselves. Simply because it is culturally acceptable does not mean that it is acceptable in the eyes of our Lord. If you have an athletic build, you must be sensitive to your role as a stumbling block in a sister’s walk with Christ. I know a Christian man who will not go to the beach/pool without a t-shirt (sleeveless). Whenever he is asked to give a reason for his actions, he always tells the same story. He was at the beach one year and noticed two teenage girls staring him down (he has somewhat of an athletic build). Later in the week, he met these girls’ parents and discovered that they were believers (as well as the two teenage girls). He was immediately convicted of causing his younger sisters in Christ to stumble and began wearing t-shirts whenever he was in public. Now, were the girls wrong for lusting after him? Yes. But if we take Paul’s words in Romans 14 seriously, then he did not love them well. So, here’s the question for every man: What is the potential of a woman lusting after me if I do not wear a t-shirt in public? Remember…it is always better to take the high road with gray issues!
The second reason I believe some men should wear t-shirts at the beach/pool is related to the sin of arrogance. If there is a sin among men which can rival lust, it has to be the sin of pride/arrogance. I know so many men (including myself) who, in one way or another, struggle with pride. For men who are “rip,” one of the key areas where arrogance flares up is when they take off their shirt in public. Many of you know exactly what I am talking about…as soon as your shirt comes off, you suck in your belly, stick out your chest, and your head swells up. You are the man! But wait, what does the Scripture say about pride? Consider the words of 1 Peter 5:5:
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
If you are anything like me, you need all the grace that you can get. You definitely do not want to be opposed by the one who can strike your sculpted body down at whatever moment he so chooses. So, if taking off your shirt at the beach/pool gives Satan a foothold, I would suggest leaving it on at all times. Remember the words of Christ:
“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:29–30)
The battle against indwelling sin often demands radical steps, but such radical steps are well worth it when we consider the unspeakable joy of knowing and loving Christ. Few sins can hinder such unspeakable joy like the sin of pride. Check yourself, men. Is your physique an idol that expresses itself in pride at the beach/pool? Don’t ignore your arrogance and use “being in shape” as an excuse to add fuel to the fire.
I hope this discussion has caused you to think differently about the issue of men and modesty, especially if you are a man who struggles with pride or who is in good shape. For the sake of the Gospel, let us be men who take such issues seriously.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this series of blog posts. I pray that your next trip to the beach will be Christ-centered and Christ honoring. If anything I have said contributes to that, then to God be the glory. Till next time….