For a while I’ve been at a loss for what to say on this matter because I’m still formulating my ideas about it. My feelings are subject to change, anyhow.

I had a discussion with a friend about Christians going to the beach a few days ago. I never thought that the beach would ever be a non-Christian venue, but people in general will find the worst in a lot of things. The problem arose when we went onto swimming attire. If I’m honest, even if I wasn’t a Christian I wouldn’t wear a bikini because to me it’s just underwear and I’m a self-conscious person. I thought that swimming costumes would be fine, not just for me but also for any of my Christian male companions that I am with. I said Christian because men in the world don’t worry about this problem as much as church men do (I really do believe we need to reassess how we talk about sex and purity in church. There’s something oppressive about it. People shouldn’t be agonizing or lamenting to themselves whenever they see a woman in short skirt, but anyway…).

My friend (a man) asked me if a swimming costume is a suitable outfit for a Christian woman to wear. I was shocked. I didn’t lose my temper as I would have in the past, but I thought the question was bizarre. One of the main things people like to do at the beach is splash about in the water, but in my friend’s world, the water would be off limits. I respected the fact that he made it clear that men also shouldn’t be in the water, seeing as though swimming trunks are made from even less material than a bathing suit, but I still found it hard to see his angle. Should Christians not go to the swimming pool, then? Because it’ll be hard to find a male only/women only public bath.

This is why I’m becoming increasingly paranoid about males. How lustful are they that they can’t bear to see a woman in a swimming costume? I just don’t know what is inappropriate for me to wear anymore and it’s tiring, because every man likes something different. I may wear something that fits one man’s “standards” but it will induce lusting in another man. What would I do then? What’s the point of dressing for male tastes? And why should I feel the need to?

It’s frustrating because I feel as though men get pampered a lot with this issue. There’s so much pressure for women to dress modestly or “virtuously” and it can be suffocating at times. Sadly, its not just a church issue. In the world, a woman will be called a slut if she dresses a certain way, and people are of the assumption that if you want to be respected as a woman you mustn’t dress like a “hoe” (ugh). How laughable is that? Sorry, hun, but if you can only respect a woman because she dresses in the way that YOU want then you didn’t respect women in the first place. Having respect for women shouldn’t come with a condition. A lot of church men have the same opinion, they simply pretty it up in Holy Jargon. But really, if God doesn’t have a condition for valuing women, then why should mortal men?

I suppose I’m just tired of people judging women by how they dress. You do know that it’s possible to do the same for men? Trousers swinging by their knees, flashy watches and low baseball caps are usually indicators of a particular nasty stereotype of men that I don’t actually think is fair, but it exists and for some reason people don’t give it as much attention as all these women dressing “slutty”.

There needs to be a better dialogue on this matter. Because I struggle with lust sometimes. Loads of women struggle with lust, but when are these issues addressed? Most people think that lusting is only a man’s problem. How wrong they are.

(To be Continued….)

2 thoughts on “Lust

  1. Older single male Christian here, so I don’t know if this makes my perspective more or less valid, but I figured I could pitch in some thoughts and an encouragement:

    It recently occurred to me, now six years removed from having worked ten years in youth ministry, that I never taught a lesson on dressing modestly. Yes, I directed a youth camp with the traditional “one-piece rule,” but it never crossed my mind that it was the most important of rules, or that our boys would enter an eternal vacuum of lust if they saw one of our girls in a two-piece. It was a safeguard — nothing more, nothing less — something that makes parents happy that we are doing something to look different than the world. If the world was wearing one-pieces, the church would likely recommend something even less revealing, for we feel as if we must offer the human appearance of doing something “godly,” even while neglecting the million ways that our motivations remain the same as the world’s.

    What I can say as a guy removed from traditional church culture is that an attitude of lust rarely discriminates as a result of a woman’s clothing. If I allow myself, I am just as prone to think wickedly of a woman in loose-fitting jeans sporting a hoodie as I am a woman at the beach. Lust may be fueled by what we see, but the fire rests in our hearts. We misguide our pursuit of purity when we concentrate our efforts on what will or won’t be seen. The act of being set apart entangles so much more. The church has produced shallow young men that revolve their Christian obedience solely around sex, which only indicates how obsessed we’ve become at the expense of nurturing other virtues.

    As a young woman, you do not need to trouble yourself with being the scapegoat for this one sin. I believe that physical modesty is best exercised when clothing a spiritual motivation. I smile at the woman that determines she does not want to be objectified — not because she’s leery of causing her brother to stumble, but because she values the scarcity of her glory for her Creator and her future husband. This is modesty practiced out of an understanding of who she is in Christ, rather than what she shouldn’t be in the eyes of man. The church cannot adequately force a woman into that pursuit, for oppression is inherent in any law void of spirit. We should learn to praise and encourage the women who determine on their own what physical beauty is considered too sacred for the world, rather than shame those that are resistant to a law. Can we not trust as a church that hearts desiring Christ will find the truth He promised in His Spirit? Are Christian men so void of this Spirit that they must hold others to a law to find greater strength in their flesh? Can we agree that a Body seeking His face for spiritual transformation will not have to exhaust herself over these symptoms of the heart?

    If we spent more time seeking the Lord in unity with those desiring to serve Him, we would be amazed at the commonality found in these issues — not because we explored them ad nauseum, but because the Spirit shapes our hearts’ motivations to line up with His. We would understand immodesty not as a shameful state of being and catalyst for lust, but as an indication of a man or woman’s heart irrelevant to its viewer. We might even be able to love the immodest person if we were more concerned with his/her spiritual state as we are with being offended or it affecting our own condition.

    All this to say, I think abstaining from going to the beach is ridiculous, short of it being a conviction that God has personally worked out in your heart. If you desperately pursue God for the purity of your life (in all facets, and not just physical or sexual), He is trustworthy to guide your heart to truth and a life in direct opposition with the world’s lusts. But that’s for you to seek in spirit, not for a brother to seek for you because he thinks it’ll make his lawful pursuit easier.

    • Thanks so much for your comments, I really appreciate them and it’s given me food for thought. I too believe that lust is something that starts in the hearts of both man and woman, and the scantily-clad person just adds more fuel to the fire. It’s something that I’ve had to learn the hard way. I suppose this dawned on me fairly recently when I really started to assess how I dressed, and as you say, it was more of a spiritual conversion in that I didn’t want to make my male friends uncomfortable. I no longer saw my dress choices as oppressive or a subject of “I’m not allowed to wear this, it’s not fair”, but I saw it as a mutual respect between my friends and me and I wanted to help them out naturally.

      Ah, maybe the church’s stance on one-pieces will be one day be “burkinis?” Haha who knows? But I plan to go to the beach–and swim! It’s fun for everyone, you know? And I honestly believe that we need to look into how young men in particular are taught about lust and sexual purity, because a lot of guys in church stress over these things to such an extent that the suggestion to avoid the water at the beach sounds reasonable!!

      Thanks again for reading, A.W.


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