There’s hardly any way to talk about the way women dress without coming off as the voyeristic pervert, the old cranky prude, or the fire-eating, Bible-thumping legalist, but whatever, there is a verse in the Bible somewhere that says Christian girls shouldn’t dress like harlots. And every once in a while someone should say so.
Now let’s just work through the basic structure of the thing. First, we keep our priorities straight: Jesus didn’t condemn prostitutes for dressing like prostitutes. We assume that there were cultural cues in the first century just like there are today. Just like always, there have been some women kidnapped, enslaved against their wills, and forced into prostitution, but there have also always been some women tempted toward that kind of abuse and oppression. For some, there’s a sick sort of security in being used and abused; ‘my life may be a chaotic mess but at least I know he needs me,’ the battered wife assures herself, the molested daughter tries to convince herself. But Jesus came proclaiming freedom to every slave. And He did this by proclaiming forgiveness and healing. Jesus came to disarm the Accuser and all accusers and send abused women out in peace saying, “Go and sin no more.”
But this does not change the fact that the way a woman tends to dress is tied directly to the state of her heart. An unforgiven, guilty conscience will tend to dress in certain ways to compensate, distract, and lie about that inner state. But the lies remain lies even with nice-Christian-girl smiles. And not only can God see through the lies, wise fathers and mothers and pastors start to see the tell-tale signs, and pretty soon it’s just like putting a sticker on your shirt that says, “Hello, My Name Is ______. And I’m insecure.”
But the answer to all insecurity is Jesus. If you’re insecure, worried, stressed, fearful, terrified of one thing or a million things, the answer is Jesus. Jesus is your righteousness. If you’re worried about sin you committed, Jesus bled and died for that sin. If you’re worried about sin committed against you, Jesus suffered in agony for that sin. So you don’t have to be bitter. If you’re worried about being a loser, left out, lonely, never getting married, Jesus was rejected, ignored, hated, despised, spat upon, and became the butt of jokes because of His love for you. Maybe faithfulness and obedience will mean being hated, rejected, and being a little more lonely for a time, but Jesus endured the same darkness and far worse darkness in His great love for you. Are you afraid of being wrong, afraid of failing, afraid of not meeting certain expectations, afraid of letting your parents down, your friends down? Jesus is your justice. Jesus is your vindication before God and the whole world. Justification is God’s authoritative declaration now that your whole life is vindicated in Jesus. Whatever the lies, whatever the failures, whatever the face plants, God is going to stand up on the last day and boast about you, He’s going to brag about His love for you and His grace in you. You are not damaged goods. You are holy, blameless, pure, undefiled, completely and utterly righteous because of the blood of the Lamb.
And if the Church is doing her job, proclaiming this good news of forgiveness and justice in Jesus, then she ought to attract people who need that forgiveness, who need that justice. A faithful church ought to attract tax collectors and sinners and prostitutes and homosexuals, a faithful church ought to attract the broken, the despised, the rejected, the hurting. And they’ll come in off the street with all their addictions, all their pain, all their confusion, and they’ll puke on the sanctuary carpet from time to time and need to sleep off their hangovers in the pastor’s office. And praise God for that. But Jesus doesn’t leave us where He finds us. Jesus transforms lives. He takes the broken, and He heals them. He lifts us out of the darkness and brings us into His light. His Holy Spirit is real, powerful, and efficacious. And when the gospel gets a hold of someone, crazy things start to happen. Where rottenness and thorns once grew, the fruit of the Spirit begins to emerge. And when someone gets a new heart, when someone is filled with the Holy Spirit, they start to glorify their life with beautiful things, they start to adorn the temple of their body, the temple of their home, the temple of their family with glory. Jesus puts His glory in our hearts so that it can spill out into all of life.
But when girls grow up in the church and don’t get it, aren’t loved by their fathers, are abused or neglected or fearful or insecure, that fear and worry and shame begins to spill out instead of glory and beauty. These girls see the glitz and fake glamour of the pop fashion, music, and movie industries as places of safety, places of security. If I wear these clothes, if I put on my eye makeup like this, if I listen to this music and watch these shows, then I will be secure, I will be safe. I won’t be lonely; I won’t be afraid. And sure there’s a surface level high. You get a little buzz having guys look at you like that. You get a little giddy, thinking you can pull off that cheap sexy look. But it’s ultimately empty, and the end of that road is getting used and abused and left alone. But you are a child of God, you are a daughter of the King. You are His special treasure. He sent His Son for you, for your forgiveness, for your protection, for your blessing. No other man can save you. No other man, however handsome, however cool, however rich, however slick can save you. No other man will die for your sins, no other man can make you secure. Good fathers, husbands, brothers, elders model the love of Jesus, but we’re all just faint shadows of the only faithful man, Jesus. A husband won’t fix everything, a boyfriend won’t satisfy you, and grasping after popularity is like running in one of those hamster wheels.
The fundamental issue really isn’t the tacky eye makeup, the low cut blouse, the oops-I-just-got-out-of-the-shower towel-dress, or the almost-skanky bathing suit. The issue is your heart. (Which is why, incidentally, some Christian women need to stop shopping at the Amish Bargain Basement and put some makeup on.) What’s going on in there in your heart? Who is your treasure, your comfort, your safety, your glory? Is Jesus your glory? Has Jesus covered all your shame? Has Jesus set you free?
You can try to hide, try to pretend everything’s fine, try to deflect or distract, but everyone can see. And more importantly, God can see. You can try to hide, but lies always enslave. But Jesus sets you free. Come out into the light. Come into the glory. God created you. He designed your body. He made it for glory and beauty. You are accepted in Jesus. You are good enough in Jesus. His blood can make you completely clean.
This is what it means to be a Christian, this is why Jesus came:
“To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Is. 61:3)