Sometimes writing an article makes me change my viewpoint on a topic—like this one.
When I first agreed to write this, I knew exactly what I would say.
Sometimes women are told that the way they dress is making men struggle. At first glance, the whole statement seems like a cop-out, right? As women, we can take offense from the get-go. It suggests that men have no self-control and shifts the blame squarely (and unfairly!) onto our shoulders. The whole concept seems to suggest that Christian men are uncontrollable children that women have to manage.
But as I researched it, and spent time talking through it with God, I began to understand the other side. We could probably all use a little more of that these days!
We live in a very visual society. In a world of selfies, instant updates, and “highlight reels” of the personal moments of our lives, the opportunity for men to see us in our more private moments becomes commonplace. Even if we don’t realize it, our bikini-clad bodies on vacation can suddenly become fodder for conversation if someone deems it to be tempting to someone it shouldn’t.
It doesn’t mean we are somehow at fault when someone sees it, but we do have to be aware of it.
Because before every sin that takes place, there’s the stumble—that thing that catches someone off-guard that causes them to lean toward sin. The stumble can be caused innocently, or purposefully. But as Christians, do we want to be the reason another person stumbles into sin, regardless of whether we intended to or not?
This question, in my mind, becomes more about being respectful of another Christian’s walk, rather than our own rights—even if it’s a Christian we’ve never met. And since we are called to draw others to Christ, shouldn’t we do everything in our power to do that—including not doing the opposite by potentially drawing someone away from Christ?
As Christians, we all have one thing in common: we are each in a relationship with God that centers on personal responsibility. We are all responsible for our own actions and will be held accountable by God. That includes the sinner, the person who willfully causes someone to stumble. and the person who knew it might cause someone to stumble, but chose to ignore the problem.
“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17).
Any actions we take or don’t take are between God and us. God will be the One to look at the situation and decide where we truly stood in it. If we are truly living to please God, we won’t put ourselves in a position to actively seek out sin, or to purposefully—or unintentionally—tempt others to sin.
Do I have the right to dress any way I want? Yes.
I also have the right to behave any way I want. But as a Christian, I withhold from some things out of respect and reverence for my God, not necessarily because He has a specific rule for it. It may fall in a grey area, such as what kind of movies are appropriate, and I have to make a call based on the other things I know He would prefer me to do or not do. In the end, what we say, what we do, and how we handle ourselves should match our desire to bring people toward Christ. The world is judging Christ by us. If we talk about our faith with reverence, and yet don’t handle ourselves differently than the rest of the world, what will the takeaway be?
I’m not saying that as Christian women that we should cover every inch of our bodies, wear cardigans and turtlenecks and never put ourselves in the paths of other men; I actually think the opposite. When you are outside the faith looking in (as I was for most of my life), it can be refreshing to see someone who dresses like the rest of us but is sold out for Jesus. It makes them approachable, and sets a good example of someone who won’t judge every little thing about others—or place themselves upon a pedestal they shouldn’t be on—because they’ve chosen not to focus on the surface things. I don’t want unbelievers to think of God as an unreachable pious judge on a hill who can’t see beyond the surface, because that’s simply not true.
I’m just saying that we should err on the side of caution, and keep the best sides of our sexuality for our spouses. We should also admit that we—as women—completely understand the power that our sexuality brings and the reasons we use that power. Women are not objects in and of themselves, but all women understand how to make themselves objects if they so choose.
I say, don’t give them that glimpse into our lives to start with. What it boils down to is intent and respect for others and ourselves.
“Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”
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Laura Polk is a writer, speaker, and textile designer residing in North Carolina with her three children. Since becoming a single mom, her passion to minister to this group has led her to encourage successful single mom living through The Christian Single Mom on Facebook and to help them become financially stable through Single Mom Side Hustle. She is also continuing to pursue her dream of writing fiction as Laura Frances. Check out her latest book, Wide Plank Porches, follow her journey through her blog or get a glimpse into her quirky thoughts and inspirations for design and writing on Pinterest.