By Lewis Willis
Most of us tolerate every form and expression of wickedness that people of the world practice. We do not want or appreciate the evil that worldly people practice, but there seems to be so very little that we can do about it. So, we no longer preach against the overflowing unrighteousness which is engulfing us. We just “hang on” as we hope for better days, knowing that worldly people act that way.
However, is it not time that we become concerned about ourselves? We have been bombarded with so much evil that we seem to have decided to start thinking and acting like the world around us. On television, in movies, in magazines and newspapers, on the job, even at the grocery store we scarcely blink at what we see and hear. We are inundated with sex, violence, profanity and animal- like behavior. There is no place to go to escape it, so we have decided to accept it. Or, so it seems. Preachers used to preach against it, Bible class teachers regularly taught against it, and parents staunchly refused to allow their children to act like worldly-minded people. But not anymore. It is frequently difficult to tell the devoted Christian from the infidel. The way some Christians dress, the places they go, the way they talk, and the way they act is not markedly different from the ways of the most ungodly. Furthermore, we do not seem to be terribly upset about it. At least we are not doing much to change our conduct.
Let me give you some illustrations. Not long ago I saw a very dedicated young Christian mother out mowing her law in shorts that were at least eight inches above her knee. Not many days later a young lady who claims to be a Christian came to the church building with a non-Christian friend in what can only be described as the shortest of short-shorts. I recently attended service at another church and a young father with two or three children was in attendance wearing shorts.
When did we stop thinking? Have shorts become modest apparel in the last few years? Did I perhaps miss the decree that they were acceptable apparel for Christians? I wonder where I was when it was decided that such skimpy clothing is appropriate for both shopping and worship!
No, brethren, the rules did not change. We did! We have accepted into our own lives the sin running rampant in our country. We, the blood-bought people and family of God are running around everywhere dressed immodestly, and we don’t even seem to care!
It has been said many times before, but I would say it again, “Where would you start cutting on a pair of shorts to make them immodest?” How are Christian parents going to convince their children that they must dress modestly? Especially, when the parents themselves run around all over town — even to the worship of the church in what can most charitably be described as questionable apparel! It’s sad to think that they are not even going to try to teach their children about modesty. How can they without condemning themselves? Few people would have the courage to admit to their children that they have been wrong about this matter all these years.
Paul wrote to Timothy, instructing “That women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness (a sense of shame; modesty) and sobriety (sound judgment)” (1 Tim. 2:9). The verse still says the same thing, doesn’t it? Interestingly, I went back and checked the meanings of modest, shamefacedness and sobriety in both English and Greek, and the definitions are the same as they used to be. I then checked several well-respected commentaries on these matters and they still say the same things. The attire of people should be expressive of a sense of shame and good common sense, shrinking from trespassing the boundaries of propriety, not exhibiting their bodies in such a way as to produce lust.
If the Scripture, the words themselves, and respected commentaries haven’t changed on the subject of modesty, what do you suppose changed? Is it possible that we have changed; from a scriptural conduct, to one that is unscriptural? Is it not evident that we have failed to keep the influences of the world out of our lives?
Some are even going to say, “Well, it just doesn’t make that much difference — I don’t know what he is so upset about.” That being the case, allow me to inform those who want to engage in such conduct of an obligation bearing heavily upon them. Twice the apostle Paul required it: (1) “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21); and (2) “Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:10). You have a responsibility before God to prove that he accepts wearing of scanty attire in public and in the worship of the church. If you can’t prove it, you had better not do it. The burden of proof lies with those who practice such things. It is not my obligation to prove you can’t! In the days of Jeremiah (627-586 B.C.) the Jews — even Jerusalem — had abandoned the conduct that God required. Jerusalem became as a fountain, casting out her wicked- ness. God said, “Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee . . . To whom shall I speak, and give warning . . . they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach . . . For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness . . . Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord” (Jer. 6:1-15).
Some in the church of 1998 are not a great deal different than Israel was in Jeremiah’s day. We don’t blush at much anymore. It is harder and harder to embarrass some Christians. Being seen in public half naked surely does not cause them to blush.
Is it not time we stop and think? Jeremiah called Israel to return to truth and right. He said, “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” They should have listened, “But they said, We will not walk therein” (v. 16). When we are called to turn away from our worldly conduct, and return to modesty and appropriate behavior, will we say, “We will not walk therein?” When did we stop thinking? Isn’t it about time we started thinking again and teaching the truth on this matter?