The battle for modesty is one that seems to be ongoing, with many Christian women landing either on one side, the other, or maybe in the middle. Some want to be liberated to flaunt their curves and not be ashamed of their bodies, others who want to conceal their bodies, and a few who may be conflicted by what is modest and what is not. With the recent Instagram hoopla over Amber Rose baring her privates to the world, many people unsaved or not, are trying to decide where to draw the line. It’s true that what one person deems as modest, may not be for the next person, and cultural climate definitely influences these decisions, however for the Christian woman, the tug-o-war lies within our souls, our desire to be desired, our desire to look good, and our desire to embrace how God has made us while upholding the standard of scripture. But, more importantly, what is the standard? Through varying images that are pushed even within Christian culture, our young women have often been left receiving mixed messages. Because of those mixed messages, many young women are often left still searching for the standard and wondering which is right.
“Because of those mixed messages, many young women
are often still left searching for the standard and wondering which is right.”
Heidi Dye is an educator and leader at Legacy Fellowship Church in Chicago, Illinois where she serves alongside her husband Brian, on the west side of the city. Her focus is shepherding young women and encouraging them to grow in Christ. She believes that we have biblical guidelines when it comes to modesty as women of God. “The first thing that comes to mind is 1st Peter 3, where it talks about just holiness and how women of God should carry themselves, but again, it’s more of an outline and not a specific,” Dye says. However, she admits that culture, mainly social media, plays a huge role in how we view this issue. “Christians don’t only look at Christian websites so Christians are to be in the world and not of the world. But, because we’re in the world, we’re being flooded constantly with ads and all kinds of things like that, without a filter or a standard that you can hold on too. It’s absolutely easy to be influenced… especially as a young woman who is seeking to find her identity in Christ,” Dye says.
While both men and women are affected by social media, studies show that more body image disturbance happens most amongst young women. In 2000, People magazine conducted a survey and asked 1,000 women about how celebrity images influence their self-esteem. The survey found that 80% said images of women in popular media and advertising make them feel insecure about their looks. Recently, Amber Rose, infamously known as the ex-girlfriend of hip-hop artist Kanye West, ignited Instagram by posting an image of her private parts and is also known for bringing awareness to the “Slut Walk,” an event aimed at ending rape culture, sexual injustice, victim blaming and derogatory labeling. The website highlights a quote from a Toronto police officer who told some college women that if they wanted to avoid being targets of sexual assault, “then they shouldn’t dress like sluts.” This comment sparked controversy among men and women while at the same time, raised an important question in the Christian world as well, of men checking their unbridled lusts when it comes to women’s wardrobe choices.
“I do understand that men should control themselves but God has always encouraged us to consider our ‘brethren’ in every matter, a Godly woman would not for a second want to cause their brothers to stumble or sin in any way. Brothers and sisters in Christ who hate sin, should hate to cause another man to fall in it and they would become more cautious about what they wear and what they are being drawn to. I encourage people to first focus on the heart and molding one’s heart to chase after God’s affirmation and not man’s,” says Demetrius “Meech” Garrett, a native of New York who is a lawn care specialist and hip hop artist.
Being in the world and not of it is tough when you have the face the music every day; and for Garrett facing the music is exactly what he had to do in his own life, especially with hip hop’s endorsement of curvaceous women. Praising the voluptuous woman is prevalent in hip hop music and Garrett feels many women wear fitted clothing to accentuate their curves from this influence and some may have carried this mindset over as Christians and that their minds need to be renewed. Before he was saved and got married, Garrett admitted that women who dressed immodestly peaked his interests. He also shared that how they presented themselves on social media influenced his dating decisions. “When I’m only interested in your carnal attributes, I’ve forfeited all my wisdom concerning my interests in you and you shouldn’t want to deal with me because I’m carnal and when I look to the outer appearance and a woman is dressing inappropriately, it’s showing you that a woman is carnal internally. Honestly, for that male or female, they are more attached to the world and are allowing themselves to be in a place where God doesn’t want them,” Garrett says.
Of course, things changed after he was saved when viewing women’s photos on social media, where he found himself being immediately turned off from pursuing a woman who posted photos with revealing clothes on. “There was a point when I thought I was entitled to flaunt the beauty of my wife to the public honor of God, I no longer feel that way,” Garrett laughs, “So even I had some growing to do.”
In 2016, Garrett responded on Facebook to a viral video of Meagan Good, a Hollywood actress and her husband Devon Franklin, a minister, who were confronted by an unidentified woman in the audience at their book tour, when she addressed the lack of modesty in the way Good dressed. Garrett, husband and father of two boys, with another child on the way, is very vocal on social media as it pertains to the Christian faith and is a small group leader at his church. His response to the incident received over 350,000 views on Facebook and opened up an important discussion on how we should dress, which is not only aimed at women, but men also. “Men have a problem with modesty too and should be concerned with how they’re presenting themselves… Why are you working out all the time, doing push-ups, and wearing muscle shirts to church groups?” questions Garrett.
“I teach my sons how first Timothy 2 main point is not being a distraction, we always want attention to shift from us to Christ, it’s a growing process, everyone’s level of modesty is not the same but we need to fight the natural vanity that rests in all of our hearts and the self-glory, because what happens is, a lot of beautiful single women are desiring attention and affirmation,” Garrett says. “Godly men need to start rewarding women of Godly character and dress with marriage and stop going for what the world goes for, I believe we will see more modesty, when we begin to reward modesty. But even if you never receive a human reward for your modesty, understand God is pleased and that’s all that matters at the end of the day,” Garrett says.
Pleasing God should be at the heart of every Christian, which should be passed on to the next generation, “I tell my son all the time that it starts with the heart and to be sure that his heart is in the right place. This means that he must continue to seek for God. He must persistently search God’s word for truth and to obey that truth. This will be the same for my daughter. I believe modesty begins in the heart, it deals with the way you present yourself to be sure that your presentation is decent and proper according to the will of God,” says Aitina Fareed-Cooke.
Cooke is a native of Buffalo, New York and works as a community schools’ navigator with Buffalo Public Schools: Say Yes to Education. She also runs her own cinematography company called Get Fokus’d productions, and is a hip hop artist and a wife and mother of two. On and off stage she admits to struggling with modesty in her own life, “Many times I’ve wrestled with the thought that other people may look at the way I dress as being too young or too modest. I personally do not like attention so I dress down when I can even then I still get random eyes and whistles. I will continue to say be wise and I know that is a broad idea but it really depends on the person as far as where they are with understanding,” Cooke says.
When it comes to finding the balance in all these things concerning what and what not to wear, Cooke affirms leaning on the scriptures. “In all things be wise, constantly seek for wisdom in the bible; read, study, memorize, surround yourself with bible believing, strong minded people who care about your heart,” Cooke says.
Raising the banner of modesty and raising the next generation the external fruit is a reflection of what’s on the inside and constant heart checks using the word of God can lead us to put on Christ which is the wardrobe we all should wear.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23 ESV