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Three immodestly dressed women walk into a church

She was beaming with excitement on this early Sunday morning. Up until just a few months ago, she would have probably been sleeping off a hangover right about now. But not today. A christian co-worker, who had befriended her this past year, was faithful in sharing the gospel with her.

As she shared with her the heartache she had over a broken relationship, and the emptiness and fear that she had in thinking about her future, her friend told her about Jesus. The One who came to take her sin and guilt away.

So now, here she was, a new christian herself. She knew she was forgiven. She had Jesus! She was anxious, yet excited, as she thought about going to church that morning for the very first time.

She nervously picked through the skirts and tops in her closet. She wanted to honor her new Savior, and felt a tinge of guilt as she ruffled past the pieces in her closet that she used to wear to get the attention of the guys at the bar.

She picked out what she thought was the most appropriate skirt for a church service. It rested just a few inches above her knees. It was the longest skirt she had. She looked at the clock and realized she was rushed for time, so she quickly threw on a pair of high heeled sandals and chose a tank top and headed out the door.

As she walked into the church with her friend, she caught the disapproving glances of a couple of women around her. Her friend introduced her to a few people…but by now it just felt awkward. Even before the service started, she was convinced she didn’t fit in.

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Here she was again…another hectic Sunday morning. Her kids were arguing in the other room and she was fighting back the tears of frustration as she attempted to put on last year’s jeans. In her weight battle…she went up another size this year. She would just have to bear with the uncomfortableness.

She picked out a top that she felt would draw the least amount of attention to herself, and headed off to church, shamefully fumbling to hide her cleavage. On the drive there…she condemned herself again, asking herself why she couldn’t just get her act together and get those 20 pounds off.

Instead of rejoicing in the love and acceptance of her Father that morning…she spent that time in the worship service, sitting in her tight clothes, wondering what other people were thinking of her. She knew she wasn’t being purposefully immodest. But was worried other people might be looking at her like she was.

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She dreaded Sunday mornings. Her mother just had to drag her to church each week. She was almost 18. Why couldn’t her mom just let her do what she wanted? She had to admit though, that deep down, there was a part of her that was glad her mom insisted she go. There was hope in the messages she heard there.

She longed for acceptance and struggled a lot with insecurity. She didn’t realize this was one of the reasons she chose the things she did to wear. She just knew she liked the attention she got. It made her feel like she was worth something.

One Sunday morning, an older women in the church approached her. “You know, darling, your mom should have told you, you shouldn’t be wearing outfits like that…and especially to church. It doesn’t honor the Lord. And the young men here are looking for respectable girls.”

For the next couple of months, she made it a point to hide the best she could each Sunday. She never forgot that conversation. What that woman said just reaffirmed what she always thought…she wasn’t accepted after all. She was too broken. She turned 18 a few months later, went off to college, and never returned to church again.

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When we start bringing the gospel into the subject of modesty, there is a lot to think about and a lot to say. Much more than a simple blog post can manage to tackle.

So it is my hope that this post will simply focus on and challenge our own hearts on the judgments we make when we see someone we deem as immodestly dressed, walking into our church.

It is my hope that we will come to realize that behind each immodestly dressed woman, is a broken woman. Christian, and non-christian alike.

I can’t help but wonder what our churches would look like, if the gospel so captivated our souls…that even the most immodesty dressed woman could enter into our presence and feel accepted?

What would happen, if we approached each other like Jesus approached the woman caught in adultery? The very first thing he told her in her sin, was that she wasn’t condemned.

So shouldn’t the banner that is flying over our churches be, “There is no condemnation here!”?

What if, instead of being so quick to judge what we see on the outside of each other every Sunday, we actually looked at each other and saw what God was making of us on the inside…envisioning all that we will be someday on the other side of eternity?

Imagine what it would look like, to be so caught up in the grace of the the gospel, that we can celebrate and delight in each other, even in our messiness? Even in our immodesty?

What if we saw in each other what our Father in heaven sees when he looks at us?

The bible says when he looks at us, he sees the life and death of his perfect Son.

C.S. Lewis said that if we could see each other as beautiful as we will be in heaven…we’d be tempted to worship each other.

What would our relationships look like if we had that kind of grace coursing through our veins?

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a time and place in the confines of our relationships with one another, to call each other out on our sin. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery that she wasn’t condemned. And then he called her to obedience.

But before we do that…we must always be looking inwardly at our own hearts first. After all, God says we have some pretty big logs we need to get out of our own eyes before we start picking at the specks in other’s.

So, why DO we sometimes find ourselves angry or agitated at the immodesty dressed woman? Why the impatience? Why the frustration? Why the internal eye rolling and even self righteous thoughts of thinking we know better than she does?

Why isn’t our first reaction to the immodestly dressed woman one of,

“You are my sister. I love you! I don’t condemn you.” ?

Maybe it is fear. Fear of our husbands finding another woman beautiful. If that is the case, we can know we aren’t trusting the gospel in that situation. Because if my identity is rooted in Christ’s love for me, I won’t fear other beautiful women. I will trust my Father in heaven is sanctifying and offering my husband the same grace he gives me when he is tempted to sin.

When I am truly seeing the love and grace that has been offered to me in Jesus, I will be able to extend that same grace to my husband, instead of holding him under the law. Because sin isn’t an ‘if’ question, it’s a ‘when’ question.

Maybe it is jealousy or insecurity that is the root behind my anger at that immodestly dressed woman. Because when it bothers me to see her…is my primary concern for her soul’s well being…as well as the men around her that I am just assuming are lusting after her?

Maybe it is fear that is rooted in my promiscuous past…and I somehow feel that dressing a certain way will make God love me more…and seeing someone else dressing how I would deem as immodest causes me to question his love for me again.

Maybe it is that my standards and another woman’s standards for modest dress are different. And in my irritation, I am unknowingly demanding that she live up to my expectations.

It could be many things. There aren’t easy answers. So we all tend to want some sort of standard to be set. But contrary to what many have falsely believed, there are no lists or charts available to us for gospel modesty.

But thankfully God does offer us the gospel of grace.

From the teenage girl walking into church in a miniskirt, to the mother walking in who just impatiently yelled at her kids again, to the woman sitting in the pew in her pantsuit thinking God will love her more because her body is covered up…we are all broken, sinful people, in need of a lot of grace.

C.S. Lewis said this about our hearts, regarding modest dress,

“A real desire to believe all the good you can of others and to make others as comfortable as you can will solve most of the problems.”

Let’s start praying that the gospel so invades our hearts that we are able to give to others, what we so undeservingly have already received. Only when that happens will we truly be able to demonstrate gospel modesty.

And then… start imagining what it would feel like to throw away our internal lists of all the expectations that we put on ourselves, and others. That’s a scary kind of freedom that is offered to us. Grace can be dangerous like that.

Though it’s tough to take the time to examine our hearts at a deeper level, and expose our fears and our self righteous judgments…we can know that when we do that, God’s incredible love and acceptance is just waiting to swallow us up!

As we press on in learning to rest in that kind of grace, we can thank God for the cross. The one place we can run to for refuge.

Thank the Lord there is an endless supply of his grace awaiting there for all of us…every single day.

Kimberley Suchta

About the Author

Kimberley is the wife to Mark, who is an investigator for the Minneapolis Police Department. He also serves as a pastor at Redeemer Bible Church in Minnetonka, MN. They have 5 children. She loves writing about the gospel and how grace affects every area of our lives, including marriage and parenting. She blogs at kimberleysuchta.com.