Some of you may have noticed the hashtag #ChristianCleavage bopping around Twitter. It was started after an unfortunate “modest is hottest” genre post by a pastor named Jarrid Wilson.1
(I must disclose I participated in some of the jesting as well.)
Now, I’m not going to spend time vilifying Wilson, whom I don’t know and I’m sure is feeling pretty rough right now. But the excerpts on Twitter of his original article reminded me of my own time in youth groups in the 90s.
Clothes don’t make the woman(‘s heart)
I wasn’t a Christian, but had friends who were. I had a great time pretending to be a Christian with them at church, at youth group, and Kingdom Bound™. I sat through some pretty weird youth sermons so we could get to the part where we could sing along to Jars of Clay songs, mostly because I liked the sound of my own voice and wanted everyone else to hear how awesome it was. And riding in the flatbed of a truck to get back to town and smoke illicit cigarettes at Tim Horton’s (yes, I am that old) was pretty awesome, too.
I learned pretty fast that sartorial code-switching was going to be required at some of these kids’ houses. I remember calling a friend to vet my outfit before her mom took us to the mall. My jolly roger shirt was’t going to work for that occasion. No fishnet stockings, either.
But you know what? It didn’t matter what I wore. My heart was still dead. I “got with the program” to chill with the church kids, but it wasn’t because of wanting to glorify God.
Sanctification and ostentatious dress
There are many women who, though they are far from Christ, dress demurely. Meanwhile there are new Christians who are filled to the brim with the Holy Spirit, immensely grateful for the free gift Christ has given them, and excited to share the gospel. But, in some people’s eyes, they might still look like worldly women. Perhaps, then, it would be unwise to use modest or immodest dress as our measure for holiness. It’s not that modesty in dress doesn’t matter (it does), but God works on the things in our hearts he deems most important first. A gunshot wound must be tended to before a sprained ankle, after all.
All Christian ladies are being sanctified at their own pace, as God works in them. And as a new Christian, I had to come to terms with a horrible fact: I am a tremendously vain woman. As I was nearing my wedding, I realized I wasn’t interested in looking good for my fiancé. I was interested in being admired by everyone else! My heart really strained against the idea that I had to let go of trying to impress everyone in a three block radius with my looks. But God, in his mercy, gave me three children and a lifestyle that necessitates wearing sweatpants much of the time. I still love dressing up, and I think that’s normal, but I’m no longer trying to win everyone’s admiration.
It’s helpful to remember that if we see a woman at church whom we think is dressed immodestly, she may be a new Christian. Or she may come from a different culture (there’s a subject to write a whole book on!). Or this may be the form of dress modelled for her. Or she may simply be so well endowed up top that anything lower than a turtleneck shows their #ChristianCleavage.
While ostentatious dress is a concern, we can’t forget that we don’t know what else is going on in a woman’s heart. We don’t know where God is working most profoundly. So before we get tempted to point fingers, we might want to consider where he’s working in ours first.