And so it begins.
Every year as spring turns into summer the church begins its annual practice of disrobing. Just as we can always count on blooming flowers, birds flying north, and kids playing baseball, we can also count on seeing much more flesh within the church.
As the high temperatures arrive, the young women (and sometimes not-so-young) begin to wear less and less. The skirts go up, the shirts come down, and the sleeves come off. What is left of the clothing is often vacuum-sealed to the body. There is often not very much left to the imagination.
As this happens, the males of the church give hearty approval through their silence. Fathers, brothers, pastors, deacons, etc. almost never say anything about the problem of advancing female skin in the church. Due to lack of male indignation, many of the women probably honestly do not realize it is a problem.
By this point in my life I have had the privilege of preaching in a good number of churches. It is difficult to preach in the summertime no matter where the place. This is because from the pulpit I can see way more of the plunging neck lines than I ever wanted to. It is not easy to proclaim the word of God with that much skin staring right at the front of the church. (Just as an aside, one thing that really bothers me is when a woman wears a necklace with a cross on it that is blatantly hanging right between her exposed cleavage.)
What we have is churched-people who are comparing themselves to the world instead of to scripture. By American standards, it is now just fine for women to wear a bikini top and short shorts out in public. I'm not talking about the beach, but rather basically anywhere. People of the church, it seems, use this as their standard. If they wear a little more than what they see at the mall, then it must be fine. Right?
What does the bible say about all this? Two passages come to mind. The first is general and the second is specific.
1 Peter 1:13-16 "Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy.'"
1 Timothy 2:9-10 "In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works."
Based on these passages, it is clear that women in the church should be dressing in a manner that pleases God. They should be striving for holiness in all aspects of life, including what they wear. If the shirt, skirt, or dress is questionable, then it probably shouldn't be worn.
Who is to blame for all this? I don't think the fault lies mainly with the ladies. It is men who should be taking the blame. We are to fault because we don't say anything. We have been silent over the years as more and more inappropriate clothing has entered the church. I am in no way faulting men for being affected by female flesh. I am faulting men, myself included, for not speaking out about this issue.
What are we to do? We can begin by speaking directly to our wives and daughters about what pleases God. For most women, my guess is that this is not a heart issue. They are not trying to dishonor God. They simply don't know what all that exposed skin does to males - especially to teenage boys.
As husbands and fathers, we need to talk to the ladies of our families about these issues. We need to let them know what is appropriate and what is not. We need to be specific. I'm sure that many women would be horrified to find out that some of their clothing is causing problems. They would probably ask, "Why hasn't anyone told me about this?" We must tell them.
If there is a problem with a woman outside of your family, I would suggest talking to the husband or father first. He may not be aware of the situation. Getting the pastors and deacons involved is a possibility, but that should come much later.
Men, it is our responsibility to tell the ladies of the church when they are showing too much skin. We need to begin with our own families.