I'm amazed by how much confusion has been blowing around Christian circles in regards to modesty. I've read lots of different articles posted to social media criticizing legalistic notions. These posts have made me take a long look at my own traditions, and also at these trends in the community of believers who call themselves by the name of Christ.
One thing I've noticed is what I call "rebounding opinions". Joe or Jane Christian decides that someone else has a problem with something they do. So they take a defensive position against this error, as far from it as they can. Boing! The other person is offended. They react by making their own bounce in the opposite direction. Boing! Others take sides, and soon you have a regular Church battleground where everyone thinks they are fighting the good fight of faith, but no one actually consulted their Bible or their prayer closet in forming their opinion. In fact, the deciding factor is often hurt feelings. All of these people are hurting the name of Christ, and they are usually hurting His Church as well.
My brethren, or sisteren, these things ought not so to be! God's Word, and His Spirit are enough to guide us into the truth. These will never guide us to attack or despise another Christian. If you feel intense negative feelings in regard to the topic of modesty, where ever you plant your flag, I plead with you to recognize that those feelings must be dealt with biblically before you can be objective about how God wants you to honor Him.
I would be more than happy to cast off a tradition that is unbiblical, unwise, and harmful. I will have to be convinced through scripture, though. Someone being rude with a standard does not mean the standard is bad; it means someone reacted in the flesh and used their separation from the world to boost their pride. This is what the Pharisees did, and we know Jesus took a dim view of it. But He said things like, "...these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone...."*
Here are some statements I believe miss the point, leaving undone some spiritual essentials:
1. Modesty isn't about how much of your body you cover with clothes. It's about your heart being humble. Actually, this statement is true. The problem is that it is usually followed by the idea that, because modesty isn't only about the outer covering, therefore the covering doesn't matter very much. A reference to God's admonition to Samuel that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart is common. Step, step, leap! (That's a reference to logic flow.) I feel a bit silly saying this, being obvious, but it's a huge leap in logic to conclude that, because God is more concerned with heart, He doesn't care about what man looks at. Jesus wasn't advocating for people to drink out of cups that were clean on the inside and dirty on the outside. It's just to say that if we only care about what man looks at, we are ignoring our relationship with God.
Let's talk about the word, "modesty". A quick search gives us a good definition: modest;
Speaking of Pharisees, here's another one:
2. People who have strict standards are Pharisees who are judging me all the time. Again, this could be true, but it might not be. If you assume that someone is judgmental based on what they are wearing, aren't you being judgmental? Hm? I have some close friends who have different standards than I do, some of them much stricter than I, but it would be unchristlike to judge them. I've also found many who have taught me and inspired me to make changes in my life, based on their wise deportment. I don't always change things, but it's never bad to objectively look at your life and ask God if He wants to make any changes. See also, ad hominem argument.
3. Men are responsible for their own hearts and minds before God, so a woman has no responsibility in the way she dresses. This one usually comes with a description of a very out-of-balance church, and someone's deeply hurt feelings because of unfairness. Ok, feelings aside, let's be honest about fashion. It objectifies women more than men for a reason. That reason is nothing less than perversity. Why does a man's summer fashion involve loose-fitting, comfortable clothing, but a woman's summer fashion involves tight garments with much more skin exposed to the damaging rays of the sun? Men who wear peek-a-boo holes in their garments and translucient, or skin tight clothing are not trying to attract the attention of women. I'm not saying that a man is perverse by nature, but in our culture, perversity objectifies what men want, and it's obvious by just looking at styles and listening to what worldly people say about them. A Christian who wants to please God will not wear styles that objectify her.
The truth of that statement, that a man is responsible to God for his thoughts, should not change how we view ourselves as women. I am repulsed by the expectation that I need to show my sexual nature to the world in order to be a complete woman, and I will set markers in my life that will not change with with fashions in order to avoid doing so. Those, I call standards. They do not increase my personal value, but they do show how I value myself.
I see this statement as a red herring. Yes, God will receive an account from Christian men for their thoughts. What does that have to do with women obeying God's direction to be modest? Why would a Christian woman dress provocatively and despise a man who struggles with his thought life? Is that the spirit of Christ? To disregard a weaker brother who struggles with his thought life is like a wealthy person bragging about and flaunting his goods in front of the poor, and blaming them if one falls into covetousness. This is where the word "modest" really comes into play. Will you push your assets into the notice of others, or will you honor what God blessed you with by using it with meekness and control, respecting others and yourself? (Of course a perverse man will think perverse thoughts no matter what you are wearing, but that's a diversion from the point.)
Finally, much is said about liberty. I love my liberty in Christ. No one tells me what to do, outside of God's basic line of authority, and we are all subject to scriptures. This is incredibly freeing to a Christian who has felt judged, and it is humbling to the Pharisee who takes unwarranted responsibility over the lives of others. Therefore, pastors don't get to dictate what their members wear outside of church functions. If a pastor feels like he needs to do that, he should look for that line of authority in the Bible. (He won't find it.) Such a person is out of balance.
Regardless, I do not need to determine how I live my life by rebounding away from such people. If I do, I'm going to end up doing something harmful to the body of Christ and His testimony! I have to find how I live and how I think in the Bible, if I want to have the mind of Christ. He put His liberty aside and humbled Himself to serve others. I am honored to do the same.
*Mat_23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
**1Ti 2:9,10 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.