Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Lust , Dress and The Christian Woman

Here is part of a transcript from the Revive Our Hearts radio program with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I found the transcript after searching for an Al Mohler quote that Joshua Harris makes in his book Not Even A Hint (I read the book for the first time today and think it is quite excellent!) This particular interview was entitled, Helping Our Brothers and addresses how Christian women can avoid tempting Christian men to lust by the way they dress.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: "...Josh, get us started. How can girls help guys in their battle against lust? And here we're about talking about single, married, younger, older, this is a lifetime issue. It's a human issue, not just a male issue. Talk about the impact that we as women have on the men around us.

Joshua Harris: I think it's just so helpful to realize that we are in this together, that it's not the battle of the sexes; it's Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul urged Timothy [1 Timothy 5:2] to view younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

And that is really the perspective that we want to have, to recognize that "I can actually play a part in helping others find their joy in God" and assuring that I'm not a stumbling block to them.

But that plays out in the way you act around men, the way that you dress. Clothing is a big issue, obviously. But I think of a quote by Dr. Al Mohler, who is the President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

We were having a conversation, and he made a statement that really floored me but I believe is so true.

He said, "Men are tempted to give themselves to pornography; women are tempted to commit pornography." He's not saying that women are tempted to pose in pornographic magazines or something like that, but the desire can be to dress in a way or act in a way that is primarily designed to stir up lust or desire on the part of a man.

And so, a woman just asking that question of her own heart and saying, "Am I wearing this because I want to glorify God or am I wearing this because I want men to treat me in a certain way? I want them to act a certain way around me; I want the attention that might come with this particular skirt or this particular blouse," or whatever it might be.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Let me just interrupt you here and read, Josh, an e-mail I received not too long ago, which just illustrates what you're talking about. This woman said, "I am so guilty of being a shamelessly dressed woman." She said, "I thought I wasn't; and when I realized I was, it was too late. My clothing and my behavior had caught the eye of one of the elders of our church."

She said, "This man befriended me. And I was glad to have the attention he showed me and was at the doorstep of divorcing my husband for him."

And then she talks about how the Lord got conviction to her heart, showed her that she was committing sin and needed to stop. And as hard as it was, that the Lord did help her to get free from the situation. And then she says, "My husband forgave me, but this sin is forever before my face."

And I love this evidence of a repentant heart. She says, "I've since changed the way that I dress, the way that I behave." She said, "I'm sure to never be in the company of a man alone." She says, "I don't even take phone calls from our men friends. I cut the conversation short and tell them that I'll have my husband call when he gets in."

So here's a woman who fell into serious moral sin and starting with dressing for the attention of men, not to speak of the sin she led this other man into, which doesn't mean he's not responsible for his own choices and his own sin. But we see here how the impact that men and women have on each other.

Joshua Harris: That's so true, and I think that some people can hear the whole discussion of clothing and think, You're making too big of deal out of this, making it sound like if you wear a particular outfit you're going to fall into immorality or something like that. I think what you have to realize is that our clothing (this is true of men, too) is an expression of what's in our hearts.

And so the starting point of this lady's problems was a heart that desired the attention of other men besides her husband. That was really the starting point and her clothing was an expression of that and that led to a lifestyle that ended up in serious sin.

But just understanding the idea that when you go to the mall, when you try on a particular outfit, you can't separate that activity from the posture of your heart before God. There's a connection there.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Now, Shannon, someone will hear this discussion of modesty, and they will say, "Are you telling me that it's wrong to dress attractively and I'm just supposed to wear bags so that I don't in any way cause men to sin?" How do you respond to that?

Shannon Harris: There's a difference between dressing attractively and dressing to attract. But most importantly, we need to look at our hearts and we want to be serving our brothers.

When we go the mall, we don't want to just be going to please ourselves and, "How can I look better than anyone and what would make me look the most attractive."

Joshua Harris: And I have just been so grateful for Shannon's heart to live this out. I can imagine it would be a real challenge if my wife didn't have a desire to please the Lord, where I'm having to police her clothing or something like that. But she really goes the extra mile in asking me about particular articles of clothing.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: And in that way, Shannon is not only helping you as a husband, as a man, but helping other men, other husbands, single men, by her desire to clothe herself in a way that reflects a pure heart.

Joshua Harris: That's exactly right. And that gives me such a sense of safety and trust in knowing that her heart is only for me, knowing that she's not buying clothing with an eye to get attention from other men. And I'm grateful for the fact that she does dress, I think, very attractively, very stylishly and I love the way that she dresses.

If you were here, you wouldn't see her in clothing from centuries past or something like that. But the fact is it is possible in this day and age to dress in a way that is attractive, and yet in a way that is also modest.

You can read the whole interview here.