A church in Kenya is asking some worshipers to dress more modestly. A woman was asked to go home and change because of her clothing. The reported comments suggest the issue of immodest dress is common in that particular church. The woman at the focus of the uproar is identified only as “Julia” and lives in Nairobi.
“Julia, who wrote on her Facebook page, expressed displeasure at the manner in which she was turned away. She claimed some other ladies wear mini skirts and spaghetti tops in big churches in the city.”
How to dress in worship is always an issue. But normally the question I hear is more about whether we should require a man to wear a coat and tie if he is leading in the public worship. Scantily clad women in worship have not yet made it onto the local radar screen. But until they do here are a few thoughts. There could be more but these come to mind this morning.
- Modesty is more than necklines and hemlines. Immodest attire is that which draws attention to the person. A man wearing a tuxedo to worship would surely be immodest as would a young man wearing a Budweiser T-shirt on the Lord’s table or a woman with a plunging neckline.
- Modesty is a judgment issue. The Bible does warn against immodesty (1 Timothy 2:9) but really gives no particular rules. Thus, culture will sometimes define modesty. If I wore a Sunday suit, complete with dress shirt, coat, pants, tie and shiny shoes to worship in Lethem I would draw attention to myself. Sometimes where we are may define modesty. Common Sunday best for women would be horrendously immodest in some locales.
- The outside may not define the inside. While our clothing may flow from our inner values it is also possible that it does not. Matthew 7:15 is clear that what we see on the outside may not define the inside (Mark 12:38-40). God views the inner man and so should we (1 Samuel 16:7).
- It does matter what you wear. Plunging, cleavage bearing necklines, short, thigh and hip revealing hemlines and tight, buttocks accentuating sizes do incite lust. Let’s not play a game here. You know it. Should a true Christian be willing to alter their clothing standards if it helps someone else to avoid lust. Lust is bad (Matthew 5:28) but lust that actually distracts from worship must be even worse.
- Worship is not your mother’s funeral. A good brother once suggested that worship attire should be defined by what we would wear to our mother’s funeral. That sounded nice and was an easy line to blurt out in a discussion but it was also devoid of reason. First, contrary to some congregations, worship is not a funeral. It’s a joyous time when we come before the throne of Jehovah with praise and thanksgiving. We celebrate the victory in Christ and the resulting freedom from condemnation (Romans 8:1). Any sadness is taken away by the blessings in Christ. If a man chooses to leave is tie at home then who cares?
If we will think of others as we dress, modesty in worship will not be an issue. I promise, I will not make fun of your mid-belly tie if you won’t complain that I didn’t wear a tie at all.
When souls are dying lost, shall we really be concerned about such things as what a man wears at the Lord’s table?
Before you start the mailing campaign, I know that some dress is so egregious that it cannot be allowed in worship. My point here is to remind us to use better judgement and think righteously before making issue bigger than it should be.