I know the author of the article Why I Chose to No Longer Wear Leggings is doing what she honestly believes is best, and I can respect that. But the problem is (in addition to intentionally making a public display of personal righteousness -see Matthew 6:5) she is suggesting that to cover up will prevent men from stumbling, which simply isn’t true.
The truth is a guy can lust or think sinful thoughts about a woman if she were fully covered head-to-toe. No matter what a girl wears the guy has a choice whether he will let Jesus and the power of grace rule in his heart, or if he will let his flesh rule over him.
– Jefferson Bethke (source)
Look at burka culture, look at the men whose women cover themselves completely, to the point of dehumanizing and demeaning themselves — they are no less stumbled than American men who are exposed to near nudity on a daily basis. In truth, when we focus on modest clothing (outward appearance) instead of keeping the emphasis on where our hearts are (1 Samuel 16:7), we end up fueling the very fire we are attempting to put out,
“Highlighting the girl’s dress in front of everyone, and telling her she should dress a certain way because she doesn’t want “to make the men stumble” is simply making her an object. In the Body we need to realize using men’s sin and lust issues as the reason why a woman should dress a certain way is actually making her just as much an object than if she were to dress promiscuously.” (source)
I know this stings, Sisters. I know it hurts because sexual sin, lust, pornography and rape are all rampant even within the church — we are afraid. We are scared. We want to fix the problem, to save our husbands and sons, we want to protect ourselves and our daughters, but salvation does not come from us and the problem is not the clothes. The problem is sin.
Men and woman are God’s image bearers. We have self control, we are not animals. When we truly believe that each of us are worthy of respect and dignity because of who we are in Christ, the modesty clothing campaigns against lust become obsolete. A man who sees a woman as his sister, as a glorious reflection of a beautiful and good God, not a thing made for his personal gratification, that is a man who will not drawn to lust. To quote my recent post addressing spaghetti tops, “Men who recognize mankind’s God given value will not fall into sin because of a beautiful woman.”
If leggings incline your husband or sons to lust, they are struggling with self idolatry in the form of sexual sin — and this is incredibly dangerous. Do not ignore or belittle this sin with the excuse that most men struggle with lust. Left un-checked, this type of sin usually leads to pornography (which is functional atheism), which is violence against himself, other women and eventually you. Lust cannot be controlled by you and I. Don’t waste your money with a wardrobe a makeover — pray for him! Don’t make yourself ugly in an attempt to protect him from stumbling — speak the truth to him! Gently call him out if he, like Adam in Eden, tries to blame women (you) for his sin. If he is unwilling to listen, if his heart is becoming harder, GET HELP.
Women, you cannot protect your father, your brothers, your husband or your sons from lust. Only God can do that.
In truth, my heart goes out to the women who are promoting outward modesty as cure for lust. I hear fear in their words, they are afraid, just like I have been, just like I still catch myself feeling sometimes. I know what it feels like to grow up in a home where women are not glorious, but dangerous, a stumbling block to be feared. I know what it feels like to treated as less than human, not made in God’s image. To be seen as a thing, not a person. To be treated as a disposable item, not an eternal soul. I used to believe those lies. But as I have read my Bible over the past couple years, I’ve begun to believe what Scripture says, and my heart is clinging to the truth therein, because it is so beautiful! So free from fear. So free from my limitations. In Christ, I am worthy of love and respect. In Christ, I am made lovely. I do not need to put faith in my outward appearance because He has adopted me as His own daughter, and He overcomes all my adversaries. He protects me. This is the same God who tamed the lions when Daniel slept with them. He softened Pharaoh’s heart and He can soften the hearts of the men around us. He can teach them to see us as Glory Bearers and not sexual play-things. My heart holds fast to Christ and to the freedom I have in Him to be free from check lists. He is my salvation and I belong to Him, you are invited to as well.
I depend on God alone; I put my hope in him. He alone protects and saves me; he is my defender, and I shall never be defeated. My salvation and honor depend on God; he is my strong protector; he is my shelter. Trust in God at all times, my people. Tell him all your troubles, for he is our refuge. -Psalm 62:5-8
If one of the men in your life is struggling with lust, if your husband demeans, humiliates and violates you, if your father, your husband, your brother or your son is verbally or physically violent with you, if they view pornography, please don’t blame yourself. Call the cops (for physical violence) and then call your pastor. If your pastor does not believe that these types of sins are problematic, you can email me through the link on this page and I will find someone who can help. Don’t wait until it gets worse. You are not honoring your husband, you are not loving your neighbor by allowing him to abuse you. Know that you are not alone. God sees you, Jesus knows what it feels like to be you, and many of us women have felt it too. The message of the Gospel is not one of condemnation, but of hope and freedom.