That Untouchable Subject
This fourth blog on what it means to be chaste has been a while in coming due to two weeks of unexpected travel, but at last I'm getting back to it. The final definition of chaste has to do with modesty. Modesty has become an almost forbidden topic in today's Christian circles. It certainly is a controversial one. But we cannot pretend that God has not spoken on this issue, for He has. And we dare not pick and choose the topics we allow God to intrude on in our lives. He must be Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all.
Modesty has two separate meanings:
not elaborate or ostentatious
not seductive or sensual in how we dress
Now, those are both definitions given in the negative; that is, what modesty is not. Sometimes it's easier to define things by what they are not, but let's put these definitions in the positive to define what modesty actually is. First of all, modesty in dress and behavior means to be plain, simple, reserved, moderate, and tasteful. The last two definitions seem to best convey the heart behind God's counsel to us as women. Throughout history, various Christian cultures have leaned heavily on the ideas of plain and simple, so women dressed with no ornamentation and with no color. But I don't think that necessarily fits with the whole counsel of God as revealed in the Bible. But we are to be moderate and tasteful—and sometimes that is best understood by using negatives: not drawing attention to ourselves through what we wear or through our behavior.
Tasteful and moderate. Here are some definitions of tasteful: showing good aesthetic judgment and appropriate behavior (and I would add, dress); discriminating, refined, attractive, sensitive, fitting, pleasing. In other words, modest clothing does not mean unattractive and dowdy. Rather modesty displays a certain grace and beauty that naturally does not obstruct people's attention from being placed on the right things. It gives an overall pleasing effect while not garnering attention to itself.
Secondly, modesty in dress and behavior is pure; Strong's Concordance says, "excites reverence." I looked up synonyms for the word "excites" and here's what I found: instill, provoke, stir up, awaken, stimulate, kindle. Our clothing and demeanor should stimulate in others a reverent attitude rather than arousing sexual, sensual thoughts.
It only takes the most cursory amount of movie watching to see that movie makers are very aware of what effects the display of cleavage, the thighs, and tight clothing stimulate. These things are now so normative in our culture that I fear we as a Christian community have become like frogs in water. Culture often defines us more that God's Word. The modesty we display should be worthy of respect and set apart from the culture around us, generating an awareness that our lives—which includes our behavior and dress—are sacred.
I am well aware that this is a touchy subject. There is latitude for individuality, for location and cultural appropriateness, for personality and tastes. Blessed be God, He has not given us a rule book! But He has given us His Word and His Spirit. It is a worthy exercise to continually bring your wardrobe before God and seek His counsel and opinions—for His opinions are the only ones that matter. Let His principles and counsel weight your decisions. This is how we honor Him in ALL our ways. Let nothing be outside His control. And let us be careful not to rationalize fitting into the culture if it cuts across the parameters of God's revealed will.