“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”
1 Corinthians 6:11-13
New International Version
(WARNING: THE FOLLOWING ESSAY CONTAINS MATURE SUBJECT MATTER INVOLVING HUMAN SEXUALITY.)
Yes, we are going to talk about sex.
If you are done shooing the children from the room and shutting the blinds, feel free to pull up a stump next to the campfire and toast some marshmallows. The reason I am writing this essay is because, after months of consideration, I have decided not to write a book about human sexuality from a Christian perspective, and instead post anything that would have been in the text here on BCF. Maybe I will get around to it later on when I am older and wiser, but the information is needed now and not at some indeterminate date in the future. That said, I am going to directly address several issues that have come my way over the last several days including the latest dust-up in the modesty sphere which involves the dreaded yoga pant.
If you are like me and tend to avoid RSS feeds as much as humanly possible, this might come as a surprise, and if you are not then you are fully aware that there are brothers and sisters taking up valuable megabytes on blogs across the globe as they debate whether or not yoga pants are immodest. Seriously. Most of us expect the standard Women In Pants argument, but now yoga and jogging pants are on the list.
Part of this is due to the fact that younger brothers and sisters have not yet developed proper discernment to recognize actual immodesty, and the other comes from the legalistic legerdemain that takes advantage of our younger siblings in the faith to lock them into these petty squabbles while the actual problems in the world and church remain unchecked. Did not Timothy write in 2 Timothy 2:23 (NIV) -
“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.”
- and what of Titus in Titus 3:9 (NIV) -
“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.”
While I realize some of you are probably already balking at what I have said, instead let us take a page from Isaiah 1:18 (ESV) and “reason together” around our imaginary campfire. Reasoning not based on what I think or what you think or what the world or all these quarrelsome people think, but on what God thinks which – hopefully – will sow some seeds for a more mature discernment regarding these matters.
Right off the bat I am going to tell you that there are clothes that are immodest. Period. While we humans of both sexes can wear whatever we wish, just like the opening scripture of this essay, not all of these clothes are ones that we should be walking around in. As Evan likes to say, “Just because you can do something does not mean that you should,” and he is correct. Just because you can walk around half-dressed does not mean that you should, and that applies to BOTH sexes since God holds BOTH accountable for sexual immorality.
However, do yoga and jogging pants fall into that category?
Because immodesty and modesty like porn and art are things you just know when you see them, but we live in a world that teaches us to put things into categories of extremes which is how you end up with brothers and sisters hurling scripture at each others heads atop claims of licentiousness and causing brothers to ‘stumble’. This is also due to living in a world where The Enemy is the one to teach us about human sexuality instead of God which leads to even more bad fruits, butt-hurt brethren, and people running like their hair is on fire for all of the sexual immorality that to them represents freedom from a sexually repressed religion no thanks to asinine arguments such as this.
Yoga and jogging pants are not immodest unless they are styled in such a way as to be immodest.
I actually took the time to Google women in yoga pants, and you naysayers are right. Not all yoga and jogging pants are created equal. Some are so skin-tight that the woman might as well not even be wearing anything at all, and some are so thin you can see everything and I mean everything. This means that, frankly, if you are a woman wearing yoga or jogging pants you might want to make sure they are not cut in such a way as to make your butt look like it has been spray painted whatever color you bought them in, and that they are opaque enough to keep folks from seeing your spray painted butt in all of its glory.
When I was a kid shorts were a hot-button issue since it was the 80s and everyone had just spent the last several years staring at Daisy Duke’s Daisy Dukes. What it came down to was not wearing shorts that failed to pass the mirror test. If you are wondering what that is, it is when you bend over while looking over your shoulder at a mirror behind you, and if your butt pops out from the shorts they are too darned short. If you are like me and exceptionally lazy on some matters, just wear capris, and quietly ignore your husband while he complains they make your butt and legs look like an inverted pear. Either way the shorts themselves were not immodest unless they were cut and styled to be immodest.
Umpteen decades later I now see teenage girls walking around with shorts so short the pocket pouches poke out from the cuffs. Admittedly, the parents bought the clothes and said they were okay, but if the girl bends over she is going to end up with a self-inflicted wedgie, and before you start e-mailing me I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have heard that very complaint in the ladies’ room while some girl dug her pants out of her butt.
There you go.
The same wisdom applies to bathing suits and other attire typically deemed ‘taboo’. The items in and of themselves are not immodest unless they are cut and styled to be immodest. Paul even wrote on this matter centuries ago when counseling men and women who used to be prostitutes in Corinth in 1 Timothy 2:9-10 (NIV):
“I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”
That scripture, despite its common misuse, was not a ban against Christians wearing nice clothes or jewelry or a decent haircut. If you do the research Paul was writing to hetairai - prostitutes who dedicated themselves to the goddess Aphrodite and engaged in ritual sex as part of their monastic life. One of the ways they would adorn themselves was by braiding bits of gold and pearls into their hair which, by law, was also required to be yellow. This eventually became a fad that wealthy women copied by either bleaching their hair or wearing wigs, and the latter really is an admonition against wearing ridiculously expensive clothing.
Amazing what a little historical context can do for the meaning of a passage or verse.
2,000 years later that advice still applies – do not wear clothing that has been purposely cut and styled in an immodest manner for those who are immodest, and also do not wear clothing that costs an incredible amount of money. Yoga pants are not immodest unless they are the sort that have been cut and styled to be immodest. Jogging pants are not immodest unless they have been cut and styled to be immodest. Notice a pattern here?
Unfortunately, this sort of discernment does not come easy to many of us because most brothers and sisters – in an effort to be authentically obedient and faithful to God – have entertained a certain measure of fear which has allowed The Enemy to gain a foothold. Since they have only seen the extremes of these things then all things that are part of that category must be ‘bad’. It is the same argument that started back in the day with people who would not eat meat sacrificed to the idols they used to worship because they thought the meat was ‘evil’. Therefore, all meat was bad, and so they would not eat it at all. In fact, let us look at what Paul says about this issue in 1 Corinthians 8 (NIV) -
“Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.
So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.”
The real meaning of that scripture is engaging in acts that one knows are typically regarded as wrong, and leading others to engage in those acts that are also wrong. To break it down there is no sin in eating the food in question, however, for those who are weak and do not know this they will instead assume that it is okay to eat the food as a sacrifice to the idol instead of eating it as food, and thus sin. What Paul is saying is that Christians ought not to do that since we are told to “reject every kind of evil”, and not engage in acts that are wrong which will lead others to do the wrong thing that we know no one is supposed to do.
What this means is that I could go walking around in hoochie-momma clothing, even though I know full-well what that clothing communicates, and a weaker brother or sister would think it is okay for a Christian to go walking around dressed like a hoochie-momma. We never outgrow that ‘monkey-see-monkey-do’ habit we all had as kids, which is why fundamentally all Christians are modeling appropriate behavior and conduct even when out shopping for toilet paper at 2 AM.
We have people who are so afraid of communicating the wrong thing and causing a person to stumble they opt not to wear shorts or pants or anything at all that could cause anyone to do anything perceived to be wrong, and the problem with this is that the conscience of the weak is not strengthened, and the wisdom that brings about freedom in Christ is not developed, and the discernment to know whether something is or is not right or wrong does not form. Thus a law is forged in place of this invaluable spiritual growth, and I for one do not wish to be a Christian who causes others to stumble by giving them a law that simply leaves them open to further invasion by The Enemy through false freedom and security based on legalism instead of mercy and grace.
The meaning of this scripture is simple – eating one kind of food or wearing one kind of clothing while abstaining from another will not bring you closer to God. However, engaging in forms of evil such as wearing clothes that are purposely styled and cut to be immodest can by agreeing with the fashion codes of the world instead of the fashion codes of God. Can Christians wear yoga pants? Yes. Can Christians wear yoga pants that leave nothing to the imagination? No. Can Christians wear shorts? Yes. Can Christians wear shorts that leave their butts hanging out? No.
Notice a pattern here?
Not only that, when faced with a brother or sister who is weak in conscience and has yet to develop the wisdom and discernment to see between the extremes instead of swinging to one themselves, we should build them up so as to enable their growth in Christ. What does it profit us, the more mature brothers and sisters, if we simply walk around soaking in our own internal smugness over our knowing the finer details of right and wrong while our younger siblings flounder about in useless quarrels or lock themselves into bondage by avoiding this or that? True, it might do some good in so far as keeping them away from some things that are bad, but at the same time it could leave them open to things that are far worse.
We can see the fruits of this in our brothers and sisters who have locked themselves into extreme dress codes where certain articles of clothing are entirely forbidden based on a wrongheaded interpretation of scripture. An interpretation that was born out of a fear of causing one another to stumble, and so instead of wisdom and discernment legalism was sought out, and now we have entire factions dedicated to this wrongheaded thinking under the guise that it is somehow indicative of purity and righteousness when reality it is slavery.
Pass me a marshmallow.