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“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” [Rom 12:2]. A person’s social rank could be determined by the way he or she dresses. Similarly, dress codes are a significant measurement of Christian conduct and practice. Christians can often be identified as such by their outward appearance. For most of us, it has always been a question of how a woman of God should be dressed, both in church and outside church. I believe that we should emphasize more on modesty these days. To be “modest” means to be decent and respectful. As believers, we should be able to set an example before others. The New Testament makes several specific statements pertaining to women’s dress in the epistles of Paul and Peter. Paul admonished women to dress according to certain standards and listed them in this order: modesty, inexpensive and non ornamental attire, and clothing that emphasized godliness. Being modest does not mean we have to be old-fashioned but as women of God, we should be deliberately methodical in choosing clothing that will dignify our womanhood without provoking the stares of others, especially men. Whether we realize it or not, our choice in clothing says something about us. They reveal the heart behind the person who wears them. Here, I am reminded of the quote, ‘A modest heart comes before a modest dress’.
The worldly woman makes a hobby of fashion crazes, current trends and style shows. There are many ladies who seem to be in a contest with their neighbors, friends or even fellow believers at church as to who owns the most expensive accessories like watches, hair decors and also who wears the latest trends in clothes like saris, churidars, prettiest sandals etc. Yet, we still think that wearing jewelry is a sin. We need to look at our own lives and see what our stand is on this matter. We are called upon to address with a Christ-like zeal to help desperate souls, not distract them from God. It is heart breaking to see the fashion craze entering into our lives too. When we are in Christ who is Holy, we should also be witnessing the holiness. Holiness would say that after you believe in Christ, there is a certain manner in how one should dress. The Bible teaches “how” to wear, but not “what to wear”. That does not mean we have to wear only Indian dresses, especially when we live in a country where it is not possible to wear traditional costumes all the time. Moreover, the Indian costumes are not mentioned in the Bible as the perfect costume. I do respect our traditional way of dressing and it’s still what I prefer to wear, but when we are living in a different country or even in a different state in our home nation which has different climates, customs, traditions and standards of living, we need to adapt to the new situations, yet maintain modesty in our dress sense. Another issue some people think is inappropriate is for a Christian lady to wear pants or suites. I don’t believe so. Pants are mostly worn by men, but we need to understand that it was invented around 200 years ago. So clearly, pants are not considered as a dress for men alone. During Apostle Paul’s time, he mentioned certain guidelines on dressing for both male and female. Women should wear anything they choose to wear but in a holy manner. We should be attractive, but in a way so that we attract others to Christ and not to ourselves. Scripture explains this further. 1 Timothy 2:10 says “For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do”. I think the situation during Paul’s time was similar or it could have been a lot worse but Paul had to remind them to be modest.
The problem with our churches today is that we see many wearing very fashionable clothing and accessories (not jewelry but gold plated watches, eye ware, etc) yet still talk about maintaining humbleness or simplicity. It is very controversial. I personally feel that when we dress up for church, we should ask ourselves if we are a stumbling block to us or others in worshipping God in Church. If we feel that we are distracting others from worshipping God or, from listening to the word of God, we better give up those kinds of attires. These days, even in our Pentecostal churches, Sunday seems to be ‘dress up day’ & people pay more attention to what others wear instead of focusing on the real purpose of worshipping together. We are against gold and silver but our outfits are full of beads, pearls and everything else. I am not against wearing elegant dresses, since there are several references of how women in Bible have beautified themselves, but we need to understand the contexts. Women, for various reasons, are under the false impression that their worth depends on how they look. Many times, we try to twist and turn the Word for our convenience, right? As we read in I Samuel 16:7: “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”. We cannot use this verse to gloss over the subject of proper dress and modesty. Do not neglect the beginning of this verse. “As man sees,” implies human beings do perceive others according to their physical appearances. We should therefore adorn ourselves outwardly to reflect our “inner man” to others. Are we revealing our pride through what we are wearing? In that case, we’re being selfish and we’re only glorifying ourselves. We’re giving more importance to ourselves and we seek attention from others. My point is again to remind ourselves that God needs to be the point of focus. Let me also address that dressing modestly does not mean we have to be ugly or ‘out of style’. In most cases, modestly will make people look at you as a person and not an object. I’ve heard people saying it’s okay to be fashionable in other places but not in church, and that’s another point I disagree with. Even outside the church, we should be witnessing Christ in our actions.
Therefore dear sisters-in-Christ, let us ask ourselves… When people see us, are they seeing Christ?