On Monday we talked about the mixed signals our culture gives to women in regard to modesty and sexuality as well as the freedom found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Today we are blessed to have Staci Eastin (author of The Organized Heart) share with us on the topic of lovingly and compassionately confronting our sisters in Christ when we think they are dressing immodestly.
It’s a power we discover some time in grade school: the power of our words. We can use this power for good, but often we use it for harm.
Did you see her? She thinks she’s so great. I can’t stand her. Did you see what she was wearing?
Sometimes we do it because the target seems weak, like that timid girl whose clothes and hair are somehow “wrong.” We are glad we are not her, and talk to reassure ourselves we never will be.
More often, though, we target those who threaten us. Be it her clothes, her beauty, her body, or her self-assurance, it’s easier to take her down than admit she has something we desire. We turn our insecurities to anger and place them at the feet of one of the pretty girls.
This temptation will be with us as long as we live. Rather than putting this sinful impulse to death, though, we try to sanctify it. We disguise it as a prayer request or take it to a mutual friend out of “concern.”
Sometimes it’s appropriate to go to one of our Christian sisters. Titus 2:3-5 tells us older women are to help younger women be self-controlled and pure. Proverbs 27:6 says a friend will tell us the truth, even if it hurts. People who love us enough to point out our sin are a great gift, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. But first we need to consider some things.
Start with yourself
Before we rush to express our concern, we have to do some digging around in our own hearts. At the very least, this will make our words gentle and loving. It may cause us to remain quiet.
Matthew 7:3-5 says: Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
In other words, we need to deal with our own sin–the log in our own eye–first. Are we really concerned with this woman’s spiritual well-being, or do we want to “put her in her place”? Are we really worried she’s tempting men to sin, or does she make us more aware of our own insecurities (there’s a difference). Then we need to remember that our goal is restoration. Just as removing a foreign object from an eye requires gentleness, so does pointing out someone’s sin.
Go in person
The instructions for going to a sinful brother (or sister) are outlined in Matthew 18:15, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”
If we believe a woman’s behavior or dress are inappropriate, we are to go alone and in person. We are not supposed to discuss it with our friends, and we aren’t supposed to tell it to a pastor or elder and let them handle it. We are definitely not supposed to write them an anonymous letter.
Confronting another person with their sin is hard, but removing the mask of anonymity is essential. We can assume all sorts of things about someone’s motives, but those assumptions often wither when brought into the light. If you don’t know a woman well enough to speak to her on this subject, you can’t possibly know her heart.
We are all on different points of our journey
Not all women were raised with mothers who enforced standards about the length of our skirts and the tightness of our blouses (and such rules can’t make a sinful heart holy, anyway). Some women have never had their thinking challenged on this subject. Others have sought male approval so long they do it without realizing it. And some women are just so beautiful they will attract notice regardless of what they wear. All of them need our love and support.
Let’s stop using our words to tear our sisters down, ladies. We need each other too much for that.
Staci Eastin is the author of The Organized Heart (Cruciform Press, 2011). She also blogs at Writing and Living and the group blog Out of the Ordinary. She and her husband Todd have been married since 1994 and are the parents of three children. Staci lives in Southeast Missouri.