This blog or article or opinion piece or whatever you may call it is prompted by a few popular articles floating around regarding the issue of lust, leggings, and “the greater problem”. My hope and desire to reply graciously (as the title implies) instead of pumping out a reactionary response. With this reply, I hope that it provides new insights and provides correction where needed and, ultimately, bring unity to our faith as our Lord has desired (John 17:20-23). This is primarily in response to two specific articles namely “Not a dick: a man’s perspective on modesty” and “Ten Things We Should Get Angry About Before Yoga Pants.”
With all that here are some thoughts:
My initial thoughts about these two articles is that they are trying to avoid a real issue by saying it isn’t important or that we’re better than these low accusations of being animals.
To address the first one, I think Ashley has completely missed the point with her argument. She absolutely brings up some great points that should be heard. Christians (including myself) have a tendency to get hooked on matters that are of little or no significance (i.e. republicans should be in office, styles of worship music, etc.). However, I do not think that the topic or discussion of leggings is one of little significance.
Before I share why I think these two writers have erred in their recent writings, I would like to establish a Biblical background that, I think, is essential to being involved in this conversation.
Throughout the New Testament (and even the Old Testament) sexual immorality is shown as a snare to men. There is the example of Israel in Numbers 25 when it mentions that the people “began to whore after the daughters of Moab” and as a result “they yoked themselves to the Baals of Peor”. The Israelites were swayed to follow idols because they women had seduced them. Of course, the focus here is that Israel yoked themselves to Baals and thus the Lord was faithful in fulfilling the covenant curses. Moses comments on this issue later in Numbers 31:15-16 saying:
“Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live? Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord”
So, sexual immorality was a means to “act treacherously against the Lord”, which was the idolatry of Israel of the Baals.
Another OT book that talks about the deadliness of sexual immorality (specifically adultery) is Proverbs, specifically chapter 5 and 6:20-7:27.
The Old Testament makes a pretty good case against sexual immorality, but let’s take a look at what the New Testament has to say because it is much more internal. Two passages in particular come to mind 1 Corinthians 6:9-20 and 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
What’s interesting in the first passage is the first few verses (9-11) Paul talks about the “unrighteous” and how they will not inherit the kingdom of God. Sexual immorality is a part of this list. Of course, this refers to those who steep themselves in these activities. Wouldn’t this be surprising, though? Why wouldn’t people such as murderers, rapists, tyrannical leaders, and the like be listed as those who do not inherit the kingdom of God. Surely having sexual relations isn’t that bad, and most certainly not lusting after a woman? Paul continues on in verses 12 and 13 essentially saying that just because everything is permissible doesn’t mean everything is beneficial, and that the body is made for the Lord, not for sexual immorality. From there, Paul builds his argument that sexual immorality is bad.
The things I’d like to point out in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 is that 1.) Paul says that it is God’s will that we abstain from sexual immorality, and 2.) verse 7, “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”
So, with all this in mind, I would like to say that I think Ashely errs in her argument by essentially saying, “Look, yoga pants aren’t a big deal. Worry about these other issues”. This type of argumentation is employing a red herring, which is one of many logical fallacies that exist. Essentially, this person is arguing that we shouldn’t worry about A because B, but B has nothing to do with A. There isn’t a valid argument as to why one shouldn’t worry about yoga pants.
Argumentation aside, I think it is worth mentioning that so many people want to champion social justice over, well, everything. This is a great thing! I want to affirm that this (my) generation’s concern for social justice is so good and Ashley is right that the things she mentioned we should be concerned about. Before you send out the troops, you’ve got to train them. There is no different with Christians.
On the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had a lot of “You have heard it said…but I say to you” moments. What he was doing here was internalizing these sins, not necessarily equalizing them. What I mean is this: Jesus wasn’t equating lusting after a woman with adultery. He was simply pointing to the fact that these sins aren’t merely external, they are internal, and, in fact, that is where the begin. No one just commits adultery, it is a progression. It starts with an internal desire to view women and sex as yours to please you. Then, it fleshes itself out in different ways, perhaps it goes to adultery, but usually it begins in “small” ways like masturbation and pornography. Soon, those are not enough to satisfy this addiction that has developed and thrill and the rush is not enough.
My point here is that the internal is equally as deadly, if not more deadly. So, here is why I think both Ashley and Hannah’s (and her friend Austin) arguments are not quite accurate.
It is factual that human beings are visual creatures. It is perhaps our strongest sense. It logically follows that it is difficult for men in particular to look away from something that pleases and satisfies them visually. As well, I think Austin (from Hannah’s blog) gives to much credit to humanity. We have to remember that humanity is born with sin and inherently evil (Romans 1). Our tendency is always toward sin, so arguments such as:
“That my hormones and sexual instincts control my life on a day-to-day basis and I am constantly resisting the urge to mate with anything that moves.”
aren’t too far from the truth. It is only by the grace of God and the Holy Spirit that we can resist sin and temptation. Romans 6 describes an unbelieving person as a slave to sinfulness. St. Augustine described the state of humanity after the fall using the Latin phrase non posse non peccare, which simply means we are not able to not sin.
With all that said, yes, the way that women dress is an issue. However, I will never say the responsibility is fully on women. Men have a responsibility as well to pursue purity. It is interesting to me that, from my experience, men have, for the most part, embraced that their impurity and sexual immorality is a problem that needs to be fixed. Perhaps sometimes there is an overemphasis on females’ dressing.
I have, however, seen a very small percentage of women accept responsibility for what they wear. At this time, I would like to bring up my fiancée as an example. For me personally, it’s never been an issue for me to look lustfully at her because she doesn’t expose or emphasis certain areas of her body with her clothing. Sometimes she just wears a regular T-Shirt and some workout pants (the non-form-fitting kind). This is her graciousness towards me, and quite frankly it gives me more of an opportunity to love her and not just her body. As well, she doesn’t draw attention to herself with her clothing and I never worry about other guys looking at her, which is even more grace on her part to me.
Sex is a good example of this. Being close to marriage, I’ve learned more about it and its purposes. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that sex is all about the other person’s pleasure, denying themselves so that the other can have the most enjoyment. They lift each other up above themselves to satisfy the other. This is most certainly not the attitude of today’s culture on either side of this conversation. In fact, I think we should take our cue from 1 Corinthians 7: that love is our guiding principle, and that, even though you know something isn’t inherently wrong, you still go without that thing if it causes the other to stumble.
I hope this is informative and that it has been communicated graciously. My desire is to see needless conversations like this to happen and that we would come together men and women and be willing to die to ourselves for the betterment of the body.