Friday, September 06, 2013

Shared Mutuality

Recently a blog post has gotten a lot of attention. It was written by a mom of boys giving some (very reasonable) views on the kind of pictures that young women are putting on sites like Facebook. It is a concern that could be extended to any number of other places.

It has been responded to in several places, with (IMO) varying degrees of helpfulness.

Predictably, the backlash came against her for daring to suggest that the way women dress might be a legitimate issue, when instead men and boys just need to control themselves and their thoughts.

Can I make a plea for some shared mutuality, as redundant as that might seem?

I believe that men and boys are solely responsible for what they think and what they imagine and even what they see, at the least the second time. It is sin for them to think lustfully about a woman, and they need to repent. They may also need to establish some boundaries about what they will look at on the internet, the TV, as well as real life in pursuit of holiness. And they need fathers to model this for them and teach it to them. They need to be taught the value and dignity of women as fellow image bearers of God.

I also believe that women are responsible to dress in such a way and to act in such a way that helps, not hinders. And by “helps” I don’t mean simply helps the boys. I mean helps the girls as well. Of course it should help the boys and the men. But let’s recognize that our society is overwhelmed with the message that the value of a woman is tied up in how she looks. When young women (or older women) live that out, they are not helping themselves or other women. They are often making the problem worse. They need to be taught the value and dignity of women as image bearers of God.

I further believe that fathers (and mothers) may be doing a bad job at teaching their daughters about modesty, and about the affects of their appearance and their actions on men. Young women may not even think about it. And if they don’t, I would suggest there may be a lack of fatherhood going on there. The man who should be the most important man in her life until the day she is married should be teaching her and guiding her.

Dads, it’s okay to say “No, you can’t wear that.” Or “No, that picture is not going on Facebook.” Calling it names like “slut shaming” simply isn’t helpful. And it isn’t accurate. Lovingly helping a young woman understand dress and modesty isn’t slut-shaming. It is called parenting. It’s called being a dad. Or a mom. Or in the best case, both a mom and a dad. Or at least, in the words of Titus 2, an older woman.

If these young women are, as one friend wrote, “innocently posting things,” let us step in to help them out of their innocence—gently and appropriately to be sure, but clearly and practically.

This is not a call for burkas, and no, it will not lead there (in spite of some people saying it does). It is not a call to dress unattractively, or never to wear something “cute.” It is simply a call to common sense and love, to portray human dignity and value.

My point is that it is both the responsibility of both men and women to address the problems.

Yes men are absolutely responsible for what they think and what they imagine and what they dream about. If a man has sinful or lustful thoughts, he is sinning. He needs repentance. And he needs not repent by blaming someone else, even if something they did might have helped.

But the idea that we are never responsible for someone else’s sin is simply not biblical.

Jesus was clear that those who cause a little one to stumble should be drowned with a millstone around their neck (Matt 18:6). That’s a bit more significant than being defriended on Facebook.

In Romans 14, Paul says “if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.” In other words, one person’s actions can be destructive to another person. Paul said he would never eat meat again if that would cause a brother to stumble (1 Cor 8:13).

In none of these cases, did Jesus or Paul blame the sinner. Paul’s admonition wasn’t, “Just think about something else,” or “Control yourself.” It was to show love and kindness to the person who was in danger of stumbling by refraining from doing something, even if that something was perfectly acceptable to do.

So why are these clear teachings of Scripture abandoned or ignored when it comes to simple issues like modesty?

The idea that we live in a community and have responsibilities toward each other goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. It didn’t stop when Facebook started. Neither men nor women get off the hook for the behavior of others, but we should act in common grace and love towards others because there is a real sense, a biblical sense, in which we are culpable in someone else’s sin.

So let us dispense quickly with the notion that our actions have no role in the sin of others. Such a view is unbiblical and unloving. It is self-centered and individualistic to refuse to think about the affect that our choices (even good ones, in Romans 14) may have in causing others to sin.

Dear friends, let us have some common sense on both sides in the pursuit of biblical holiness.

Be kind, loving towards each other. Have mercy and thoughtfulness towards others.


Kent Brandenburg said...


I agree with your post, so it's not an issue, but what is modesty? At what point can anyone say that anyone is immodest? What you write above is still obscure. Something is wrong, but what is it? At no point do you say what is immodest, for instance. Let's say total nudity is a baseline, we know that's wrong, might even have a verse. Why would anything above that be wrong?

I have answers, but I read few to no evangelicals or fundamentalists either know or will say.

Larry said...

My intent here wasn't to address that question, but immodesty is drawing inappropriate attention to yourself, or drawing attention inappropriately.

Anonymous said...

very good and timely